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Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol). Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #09TELAVIV457.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TELAVIV457 2009-02-26 12:12 2010-11-28 18:06 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tel Aviv
DE RUEHTV #0457/01 0571219
P 261219Z FEB 09
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 000457 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/26/2019 
Classified By: DCM Luis G. Moreno, Reason 1.4 (b) (d) 
1.  (C)  SUMMARY  During their trip to Israel, CODEL Cardin 
discussed Iran, Syria, Israel-Palestinian negotiations, and 
the Israeli elections with Likud Party leader and candidate 
for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Netanyahu described a 
nuclear Iran as the greatest threat facing Israel, and urged 
strong economic sanctions backed by a viable military option 
to confront a problem that he said threatened the region and 
could prove a "tipping point" in world history.  Describing 
his approach to "economic peace" with the Palestinians, 
Netanyahu suggested he would cut through bureaucratic 
obstacles to Palestinian economic development to build a 
"pyramid" from the "bottom up" that would strengthen the 
Palestinian Authority, and offer the Palestinians  a viable 
alternative to radicalism.  Netanyahu expressed support for 
the concept of land swaps, and emphasized that he did not 
want to govern the West Bank and Gaza but rather to stop 
attacks from being launched from there.  Netanyahu suggested 
Syrian interest in peace negotiations with Israel were really 
overtures to the United States, and described the Syrians as 
firmly in the Iranian camp.  Netanyahu expressed confidence 
that President Peres would offer him rather than Kadima Party 
leader Livni the opportunity of forming a coalition because 
the bloc of center-right/right wing parties in the new 
Knesset amounted to 65 seats.  Netanyahu said his desire 
would be to form a unity government with Kadima, but would 
not agree to a rotating prime ministership.  END SUMMARY 
2.  (SBU)  As part of their February 14-17 visit to Israel, 
CODEL Cardin met with Likud Party leader and candidate for 
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on February 16 in 
Jerusalem.  Netanyahu was at the center of intense political 
speculation about the formation of a governing coalition 
following the extremely close Israeli national election of 
February 10, which did not produce a clear winner.  The CODEL 
met with Netanyahu following meetings the previous day with 
President Peres, and prior to meetings later in the day with 
Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian Authority Prime 
Minister Fayyad. 
3.  (C)  Netanyahu quickly launched into his oft-stated 
position that Iran is the greatest threat facing Israel. 
Noting that "Persia" already had two bases on the 
Mediterranean (referring to Hizballah and Hamas), Netanyahu 
complained that Iran's "tentacles" were choking Israel, and 
that a new one grew back whenever one was cut off.  Netanyahu 
charged that Iran was developing nuclear weapons with the 
express purpose of wiping out Israel, and described 
preventing Iran from developing a nuclear capability as 
Israel's  highest policy priority.  Netanyahu described five 
threats that he saw emanating from Iranian nuclear 
development: a direct threat to Israel; a direct threat to 
other regional states; increased terrorist power under an 
Iranian nuclear umbrella; a Middle East nuclear arms race; 
and a destabilized Middle East, with  Arab regimes 
"terrified" of Iran in his view.  Netanyahu, commenting that 
he normally avoided political jargon, pointed to one phrase 
that he said applied to this issue - "a tipping point." 
According to Netanyahu, if Iran develops a nuclear weapon 
capability it will "topple the peace process" and "change the 
history of the world." 
4.  (C)  When asked what advice he offered to the United 
States, Netanyahu reported that he had spoken to 
then-candidate Obama and said the method was less important 
than the goal, and asked rhetorically whether the President 
would allow Iran to "cross the nuclear threshold ... on his 
watch."  Netanyahu suggested there were many ways to pressure 
Iran, which he saw as economically weak at the moment due to 
plunging oil prices at the same time that the U.S. President 
had strong international backing, a situation Netanyahu 
described as the opposite of the past few years.  He said he 
would look forward (as Prime Minister) to discussing  with 
President Obama concrete measures to be taken against Iran. 
Netanyahu said these would not be a substitute for 
Palestinian negotiations, but that any result from such 
negotiations would be "washed away" by Iran's attaining a 
nuclear bomb. 
5.  (C)  When asked how Iran could be isolated, Netanyahu 
suggested a blockade as one possibility.  The nuclear program 
could be stopped if the U.S. led the international community 
to "ratchet up" economic sanctions, but that these sanctions 
would only work if Iran knew that the U.S. military option 
remained viable.  Netanyahu said he did not object to a U.S. 
dialogue with Iran provided the talks were close ended, 
perhaps two months, with fixed results, otherwise Iran would 
TEL AVIV 00000457  002 OF 003 
"take you to the cleaners."  He said he agreed with the 
Europeans' urging the U.S. to postpone any talks until past 
the Iranian elections in June.  Netanyahu said he did not 
know for certain how close Iran was to developing a nuclear 
weapons capability, but that "our experts" say Iran was 
probably only one or two years away and that was why they 
wanted open ended negotiations.  He again urged "tough 
negotiations" if military means were not used  (and added 
that Special Envoy Mitchell was both nice and tough.) 
Netanyahu described the Iranian regime as crazy, retrograde, 
and fanatical, with a Messianic desire to speed up a violent 
"end of days."  That was not the whole country, however, in 
his view, as he said that "75 percent of the Iranian people" 
oppose the regime, but that it governed with terror and would 
be hard to overthrow.  There was no single view from 
Iranians, therefore, but there was from the powers that 
dominate.  He reiterated that strong economic action could 
stop their nuclear development or possibly even bring down 
the regime - as could "the U.S. military process." 
6.  (C)  Turning to peace with the Palestinians, Netanyahu 
said the reason  the process had not worked so far was that 
while 70 percent of Israelis were willing to make 
concessions, the same number were convinced that there was no 
real Palestinian partner.  Netanyahu warned that when Israel 
left Lebanon is created a first Iranian base, that when it 
left Gaza it created a second Iranian base, and if Israel 
"promised" a third retreat from the West Bank it would see 
the same results.  There were three options, according to 
Netanyahu - withdrawing to the 1967 borders (that would "get 
terror, not peace"); doing nothing ("just as bad"); or 
"rapidly building a pyramid from the ground up."  Netanyahu 
suggested a rapid move to develop the West Bank economically, 
including "unclogging" bureaucratic "bottlenecks."  He 
promised to "take charge personally" (as Prime Minister) to 
facilitate this bureaucratic reform, which would occur in 
tandem with political negotiations and cooperation with 
Jordan to build up Palestinian Authority security capacity. 
Netanyahu noted that there  were larger demonstrations 
against the  Gaza operation in Madrid and London than in the 
West Bank.  He said this was because the West Bankers 
recognized that Hamas represents  the prospect of "violent, 
crazy" people in charge of their society; they  should be 
offered real alternatives in order to have the strength to 
resist the radicals. 
7.  (C)  Netanyahu said his "new approach"  would also 
include not continuing to fund a  "bloated" Palestinian 
bureaucracy.  It would be aimed at direct development. 
Netanyahu, noting that he had previously "turned around" the 
Israeli economy (as Finance Minister), gave one example of a 
problem he would fix as an electric powerline in the West 
Bank that was held up by conflicting and competing agencies. 
He said this powerline was needed and would create jobs, but 
was held up not because the Palestinians were targeted, but 
because that was how the Israeli bureaucracy worked for 
everyone, including Israelis.  When asked whether these 
reforms could include room to modify security arrangements, 
Netanyahu agreed that some of what the GOI calls security is 
in fact bureaucracy.  Pointing to what he described as strong 
but unpublicized trade between Haifa port and Iraq via 
Jordan, he suggested assembly points could be set up in the 
West Bank for some goods, which would create thousands of 
jobs.  This would not be a substitute for a political 
settlement, according to Netanyahu, but economic prosperity 
would make peace possible, as occurred in Northern Ireland. 
8.  (C)  Netanyahu said he was actually more optimistic about 
dealing with the Palestinians than with Syria, because he was 
confident that the Palestinian Authority wants Iran and its 
proxies out.  He said he was less sanguine about Syria, which 
he complained straddles the fence all the time.  The Syrians 
might "talk about" a new (U.S.) relationship, but he did not 
see them disconnecting from Iran.  Netanyahu suggested that 
Israel "giving up" the Golan would just result in assurances 
that Syria would later "tear up."  Describing King Hussein as 
heroic, and noting that the King came from his "death bed" in 
1998 to get then-Prime Minister Netanyahu and 
then-Palestinian Authority Chairman Arafat to reach an 
agreement at the Wye River talks, Netanyahu said that when 
Saddam Hussein took Kuwait, even King Hussein "snuggled up" 
to the Iraqi leader out of necessity.  Such is the reality in 
the Middle East. 
TEL AVIV 00000457  003 OF 003 
9.  (C)  Despite finishing one Knesset seat behind Kadima and 
its candidate Tzipi Livni in the February 10 Israeli national 
elections, Netanyahu expressed complete confidence that 
President Peres would offer him the opportunity to form a 
government because the bloc of center-right/right wing 
parties in the new Knesset has 65 seats compared to Livni's 
potential bloc of 45 seats for center-left/left wing parties 
plus 11 seats for Arab parties.  Netanyahu said his desire 
would be to form a unity government with Kadima, but would 
not agree to a rotating prime ministership with Ms. Livni. 
He explained that the one time Israel had a rotation came as 
a result of an exact tie between the two political 
coalitions, but this time the right wing bloc was much 
10.  (C) When asked about Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael 
Beiteinu party, Netanyahu reminded the CODEL that Kadima had 
in fact included Lieberman in their government in its earlier 
stages.  Netanyahu stressed repeatedly that he preferred a 
unity government, and said the large security and economic 
problems facing Israel called for the strength that a unity 
government would offer.  Livni "collapsed" left- wing votes 
(from Labor and other parties) to score a one vote margin for 
Kadima over Likud in the elections, but took no votes away 
from the right, according to Netanyahu.  When asked what he 
might offer to Kadima, Netanyahu suggested Kadima would get a 
few key ministerial portfolios, but did not elaborate.  He 
said that he while he was convinced a rotating Prime 
Ministership would not happen, he was confident a unity 
government could.  Netanyahu said the government would not 
include the Arab parties. 
11.  (C)  Netanyahu promised that as Prime Minister his 
government would not "go back" to unilateral withdrawals, and 
would have a clear focus.  On the economy, he said Israel was 
not a huge economy such as the United States or China, and 
that he would be able to turn things around quickly, as "a 
small share of a declining market" was big for Israel. Asked 
about settlements, Netanyahu noted that he had not 
established any new settlements when he was Prime Minister. 
Half of the West Bank, the area east of the ridge line and 
the Jordan Valley, is virtually unpopulated and only contains 
a few settlements.  In the other half, Israeli and 
Palestinian populations are intertwined.  Once the 
Palestinian Authority develops into a real partner it will be 
possible to negotiate an agreement over territory, 
settlements and "refined" Palestinian sovereignty without an 
army or control over air space and borders.  Netanyahu said 
it would be too hard to negotiate agreements over Jerusalem 
and refugees until the other issues are resolved.  Claiming 
that many Palestinians accept this point, Netanyahu said he 
was not talking about a delaying tactic but rather a 
temporary freeze, adding that he hoped PA Prime Minister 
Fayyad would still be around since Fayyad also thinks along 
economic lines. 
12.  (SBU)  As an example of economic development, Netanyahu 
spoke about expanding faith tourism.  He said that it "defied 
imagination" that the well-known site on the Jordan River 
where John the Baptist baptized Jesus was "paralyzed" by a 
GOI/PA jurisdiction dispute.  With Jericho only a mile away, 
Netanyahu offered to give an "easy", secure "envelope" for 
transporting tourists from the Galilee to this part of the 
West Bank.  That would lead to "co-production" that would 
provide large revenue streams of tourist dollars to the 
Palestinians, from a population that was already coming to 
Israel.  He asked why Israelis would be  less disposed to 
make concessions to a viable Palestinian government and 
society.  Netanyahu agreed that West Bank checkpoints take 
too long, and offered to look into express lanes, increased 
staffing, and other possible solutions - as Prime Minister. 
13.  (U) CODEL Cardin has cleared this cable. 
********************************************* ******************** 
Visit Embassy Tel Aviv's Classified Website: 
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