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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TELAVIV1688 2009-07-30 10:10 2010-11-28 18:06 SECRET Embassy Tel Aviv

DE RUEHTV #1688/01 2111023
O 301023Z JUL 09
S E C R E T TEL AVIV 001688 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/30/2019 
Classified By: DCM Luis G. Moreno, reasons 1.4 (b),(d) 
1. (S) Summary:  Assistant Secretary for Political-Military 
Affairs Andrew Shapiro met with a number of GOI officials on 
July 22-23 to stress the importance of the U.S.-Israeli 
political-military relationship, and to discuss among other 
issues Israel's Qualitative Military Edge (QME).  GOI 
interlocutors continued to press for the opportunity to 
review the QME report prior to its submission to Congress, 
and presented an official response to a U.S. non-paper on 
potential arms transfers to Arab countries.  In that respect, 
the MOD proposed technical discussions in Washington on 
August 3 to further discuss GOI concerns over the potential 
F-15SA transfer to Saudi Arabia.  GOI officials continued to 
express reservations regarding U.S. arms transfers to 
Lebanon, and requested the opportunity to further discuss 
U.S. strategy and intentions with respect to the Lebanese 
Armed Forces.  GOI interlocutors raised continued concerns 
over the Iranian nuclear weapons program, noting that any 
policy of engagement be done in conjunction with tougher 
sanctions and for a finite period of time before turning to 
other "options on the table."  Other issues raised by GOI 
officials included the Peace Process, Israel's export control 
system, and potential Israeli exports to China.  Both sides 
agreed in principle to the next session of the Joint 
Political Military Group (JPMG) in October or early November 
in Israel. End summary. 
2. (SBU)  On July 22, A/S Shapiro met with MOD Director 
General Pinchas Buchris, MOD Political-Military Director Amos 
Gilad, Defense Export Control Directorate Chief Eli Pincu, 
and participated in a roundtable discussion led by J5 
Strategic Division Chief Brigadier General Yossi Heymann.  At 
the MFA on July 23, A/S Shapiro met with Director General 
Yossi Gal and participated in a roundtable discussion led by 
Deputy Director General for Strategic Affairs Alon Bar and 
Export Control Director Roey Gilad.  A/S Shapiro also 
participated in a strategic tour of Israel, and visited 
Israeli defense company Plasan-Sasa. 
U.S.-Israeli Relationship 
3. (SBU) A/S Shapiro stressed the importance of the 
U.S-Israeli political-military relationship, noting the 
significance of visiting Israel on his first overseas trip in 
his capacity as Assistant Secretary for the 
Political-Military Affairs Bureau.  GOI interlocutors 
appreciated the opportunity to resume dialogue on this 
important aspect of the U.S.-Israeli relationship.  MOD DG 
Buchris noted the two still relatively new administrations in 
the United States and Israel, and the importance of limiting 
the number of misunderstandings in the future. 
Qualitative Military Edge 
4. (S) GOI officials reiterated the importance of maintaining 
Israel's Qualitative Military Edge (QME).  They said that 
Israel understands U.S. policy intentions to arm moderate 
Arab states in the region to counter the Iranian threat, and 
prefers such sales originate from the United States instead 
of other countries like Russia or China.  However, Israel 
continues to stress the importance of identifying potential 
risks that may become future threats or adversaries, and for 
this reason maintains several objections as indicated in the 
official GOI response to the QME non-paper on potential U.S. 
arms sales to the region (ref e-mail to PM/RSAT separately). 
5. (S) GOI officials also expressed continued interest in 
reviewing the QME report prior to its submission to Congress. 
 A/S Shapiro reiterated that the report was based on an 
assessment from the intelligence community, and therefore not 
releasable to the GOI.  He referenced previous points made to 
the Israeli embassy in Washington regarding the report, and 
welcomed any comments the GOI might have -- although such 
comments should be delivered as soon as possible as the 
report is already overdue.  Israeli interlocutors appreciated 
the classified nature of the report, but also made clear it 
was difficult to comment on the report's results without 
reviewing its content or intelligence assessment.  In that 
respect, Buchris and other GOI officials requested that the 
QME process be reviewed in light of future QME reports. 
6. (S) GOI interlocutors attempted to make the argument that 
moderate Arab countries could in the future become 
adversaries -- and that this should be taken into account in 
the QME process.  During a roundtable discussion led by the 
MFA's Deputy Director General for Strategic Affairs Alon Bar, 
the MFA's Center for Policy Research gave intelligence briefs 
on Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Lebanon to further support the 
argument that these countries could become future foes. 
Policy Research Center interlocutors reviewed succession 
concerns in both Saudi Arabia and Egypt.  Bar argued that a 
perceived closure in the capability gap between Israel and 
Arab states, coupled with a nuclear-armed Iran, could compel 
moderate Arab states to reassess the notion that Israel was a 
fixture in the region. 
7. (S) Typically frank, MOD Political-Military Chief Amos 
Gilad was not certain how much longer Egyptian President 
Mubarak would live, and questioned whether his son Gamal was 
ready to assume command.  Gilad said the Egyptian military 
led by Defense Minister Tantawi continues to train and 
exercise as if "Israel was its only enemy."  He added that 
there were disturbing signs on the Egyptian streets, as women 
are dressed more conservatively, and that peace with Israel 
"is too thin, too superficial."  On Saudi Arabia, Gilad said 
that King Abdullah does not hate Israel, but his chief 
priority is the survival of the regime. 
8. (S) The GOI official response to the arms transfer 
non-paper includes several objections, such as the potential 
transfer of systems for the F-15SA to Saudi Arabia, including 
the Enhanced Paveway II, Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System, 
and AESA radar.  Buchris said the GOI is ready to establish a 
working group to discuss the F-15SA transfer, and proposed an 
Israeli technical team accompany BG Heymann to Washington (in 
town for a missile defense meeting) on August 3 to discuss 
the issue further.  Buchris said the sale of the F-15SA was 
not the problem, but rather the weapons systems included on 
the planes and the location of the planes in Saudi Arabia. 
9. (S) The GOI remains concerned about U.S. arms transfers to 
the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), and has requested the 
opportunity to discuss further U.S. intentions regarding the 
LAF.  A/S Shapiro said the results of the Lebanese elections 
represented a turning point, and rejection of Hizballah and 
its Iranian sponsors.  The need to build up Lebanese 
institutions, including the army, was now more important than 
ever, he argued.  A/S Shapiro said the LAF has thus far 
demonstrated a solid record of accounting for U.S. systems 
transferred to Lebanon. 
10. (S) Buchris acknowledged that the elections in Lebanon 
were positive, but countered that Hizballah's influence 
remains strong.  He argued that items such as the Cessna 
Caravan and the Raven unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) lack 
sufficient mitigation measures, which creates the potential 
for an incident along the Israel-Lebanese border.  Amos Gilad 
said the GOI does not believe the LAF will attack Israel. 
However, given the ties between Hizballah and the LAF, he was 
certain the IDF would eventually face the LAF in any conflict 
with Hizballah. 
11. (S) Analysts from the MFA's Center for Policy Research 
argued there has been no dramatic change in the political 
arena despite the March 14 coalition's significant victory in 
the elections.  They said the fragile political situation in 
Lebanon is currently stable, but Hizballah still possesses an 
unofficial veto over policy.  Long term prospects will be 
tested by the Hariri Tribunal and Hizballah's desire for a 
reprisal to the 2008 Mughniyeh assassination.  MFA Policy 
Research analysts further argued that the LAF faces 
tremendous pressure following the recent explosion of a 
Hizballah arms cache near the Lebanese-Israeli border.  MFA 
DG Yossi Gal noted that UNIFIL had been prevented from 
investigating the explosion, and raised the recent crossing 
by Lebanese citizens into Israeli territory to plant Lebanese 
and Hizballah flags.  He said French and Italian delegations 
had praised the GOI's restraint in these cases. 
12. (S) A/S Shapiro asked if the election results might be 
the result in part of a backlash in the Christian community 
against Hizballah; the Policy Research analysts countered 
that the results were indicative of several factors, 
including the influx of Saudi money and an unstable 
opposition camp.  They agreed that Hizballah leader Nasrallah 
might be a bit chastened following the elections, as 
suggested by A/S Shapiro, but that Hizballah continues to try 
and undermine the March 14 coalition. 
13. (S) During the MOD roundtable discussion, BG Heymann also 
acknowledged the positive results of the elections.  However, 
he feared the outcome did not represent the real power of the 
Shi'ites in Lebanon.  He agreed that moderates and the LAF 
must be strengthened, but expressed deep concerns about 
ongoing cooperation between Hizballah and the LAF.  He also 
said that such aid to Lebanon be paired with efforts to halt 
smuggling and directly weaken Hizballah. 
14. (S) BG Heymann also cited concerns regarding mitigation 
measures for the Caravan and Raven in order to prevent an 
"accidental engagement" by the IAF.  Overall, he was 
skeptical that these systems would benefit the LAF, and said 
the GOI would appreciate a more in-depth conversation 
regarding U.S. intentions and overarching strategy with 
respect to the LAF.  Heymann suggested further talks to 
coincide with the August 3rd F-15 technical discussion in 
Washington; MFA DDG Bar echoed this request.  A/S Shapiro 
offered to take that back to Washington for review.  If it 
proved too difficult on short notice to bring together 
interagency experts to discuss US intentions with the LAF, 
A/S Shapiro suggested it be included in the Joint Political 
Military Group talks later in the fall. 
15. (S) Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons remains the GOI's 
primary focus.  Buchris stated bluntly that it was not clear 
to him where U.S. policy was heading with regard to Iran.  In 
separate meetings, Buchris and Amos Gilad said that Israel's 
preeminent priority is to prevent Iran's nuclear weapons 
program, which if realized would cause a nuclear arms race 
across the Middle East as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt 
pursue similar programs in response.  Gilad was skeptical 
that engagement would work, noting Iranian desires to 
"establish a new empire" and pointing to Iranian support for 
Hizballah and "Hamastan." Buchris added that the United 
States' desire to engage with Iran should be accompanied by 
tough sanctions, and only pursued for a finite period of 
time; MFA DG Gal concurred.  Alluding to a potential military 
strike, Buchris said "all options must remain on the table," 
and acknowledged that part of his job was insuring Israel was 
ready to employ such an option, no matter how undesirable it 
may be. 
16. (S) A/S Shapiro made clear that a nuclear armed Iran was 
unacceptable to the United States.  He referenced Secretary 
Clinton's July 15 foreign policy address at the Council on 
Foreign Relations, noting the offer of engagement with Iran 
-- but reinforcing that such an offer is not indefinite.  A/S 
Shapiro argued that an Iranian rejection of our offer to 
engage will only help bolster international support for 
increased sanctions.  He also pointed to the uncertain 
situation following the Iranian elections -- it was unclear 
at this point how the regime in Tehran will react to our 
offer of engagement.  That said, he repeated that the 
engagement offer was not unlimited, noting that the United 
States will reassess its engagement strategy with Iran later 
this fall. 
17. (S) A/S Shapiro cited a commonality of interests with the 
Gulf States, which also view Iran as the preeminent threat -- 
we should take advantage of this commonality, he said. 
During the J5 roundtable discussion, IDF interlocutors 
expressed skepticism that proposed military assistance to the 
Gulf would help against Iran, as some of the systems slated 
for delivery are not designed to counter the threats, nuclear 
and asymmetrical, posed by Iran.  A/S Shapiro agreed that 
assistance to Gulf states should not diminish Israel's QME, 
but argued that it sends a signal to those countries (as well 
as Iran) that they have strong allies in the West.  It also 
helps convince these regimes that their best interests lie 
with the moderate camp rather than with Iran. 
18. (S) Buchris said the lack of an appointed U.S. special 
envoy focusing on Iran suggested the United States did not 
believe Iran was a priority.  A/S Shapiro reassured Buchris 
that Iran was a top priority as President Obama and Secretary 
Clinton are intensely focused on Iran.  The fact that Tehran 
has not responded to our offer of engagement makes a special 
envoy responsible for negotiations not as important, A/S 
Shapiro said -- in any case, much of the discussion will be 
behind the scenes. 
19. (S) Buchris referenced a press report from Secretary 
Clinton's trip to Jakarta in which she said the United States 
would consider providing a defense umbrella for moderate Arab 
countries in the Middle East should Iran acquire a nuclear 
weapon.  Buchris argued that such a statement already 
conceded the idea of a nuclear-armed Iran.  MFA Deputy 
Director General for Strategic Affairs Alon Bar also raised 
the Secretary's Jakarta statement; A/S Shapiro stated that 
the Secretary's comments did not indicate a new policy 
approach, but were meant as a deterrent factor toward Iran's 
nuclear weapons ambitions -- not as a concession -- and that 
journalists covering the trip attempted to make more out of 
the statement than was intended. 
20. (S) Amos Gilad referenced Russia's potential sale of the 
S-300 missile system to Iran, noting that Russian 
interlocutors initially denied the S-300 contract with Iran, 
and then later admitted it had been signed but added that the 
system would not be delivered for political reasons. 
However, Gilad said the Russians would reassess this 
political calculation should the United States continue to 
pursue missile defense plans in Poland and the Czech 
Republic.  He speculated that the Iranians would continue to 
put pressure on Russia to sell the system rather than pursue 
alternative Chinese systems.  He said the Russians appear 
committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, 
but he personally had doubts about their intelligence 
capabilities following their lack of knowledge regarding the 
Syrian nuclear project. 
Peace Process 
21. (S) Buchris acknowledged that the Palestinian Authority 
was doing a "good job" in the West Bank, noting respect for 
Palestinian Security Forces (PASF) as they take more control 
of security -- giving them the chance to succeed was 
important, Buchris said.  He also commended the work of 
United States Security Coordinator Gen. Dayton in training 
the PASF.  That said, Buchris argued the way ahead would be 
difficult, given the divide between Hamas and Fatah. 
Reconciliation talks between the two have stalled -- Amos 
Gilad said both sides are "more interested in swallowing one 
another" than negotiating.  Behind the scenes discussions 
with Hamas by European countries and even U.S. visitors have 
not helped the situation, Buchris said.  A/S Shapiro deferred 
to Special Envoy Sen. George Mitchell's efforts, but noted 
Secretary Clinton's point that a stronger PA will offer an 
alternative to Hamas.  He also stressed Secretary Clinton's 
remarks during her July 15 speech that the United States will 
not engage with Hamas unless it has accepted the Quartet 
Export Control 
22. (C) MOD Defense Export Control Directorate (DECD) Chief 
Eli Pincu reviewed the export control system, emphasizing an 
improved process, but also acknowledging the potential for 
improvement.  He gave a brief presentation regarding Israeli 
export controls, including enhanced legislation, 
cross-ministry coordination, enhanced enforcement, and 
increased industry outreach and training.  He noted 780 
registered exporters in Israel; for 2009, 31,373 marketing 
licenses had thus far been issued, with 1,198 denials and 219 
returned without action.  MFA Export Control Director Roey 
Gilad stressed the partnership between the MOD and MFA on 
export licenses, and explained the system's dispute 
resolution mechanism in the event the MFA and MOD disagree on 
a particular case. 
23. (C) Both Pincu and Roey Gilad noted that the GOI 
continues to seek assistance in closing export control 
loopholes, including brokering.  Pincu noted that brokering 
had been included in the Defense Export Control Act, but that 
accompanying implementation legislation had not yet entered 
in to force.  Pincu said the GOI had consulted with Germany, 
the United Kingdom, France, and Japan on its brokering laws, 
and planned to raise it during the annual defense export 
control working group to be held in Washington in October. 
Roey Gilad and other DECD officials also hope to travel to 
Washington in the near future to further discuss brokering 
24. (C) MFA Export Control Director Roey Gilad reiterated 
that the GOI in no way desires to compromise U.S. national 
interests with respect to exports to China.  He noted, 
however, that the U.S. Department of Commerce created in 2007 
a list of exemptions for certain items if sent to validated 
end users in China.  Gilad questioned whether the same 
exemptions might be possible for Israel.  As it currently 
stands, the GOI must pursue any export to China through the 
bilateral statement of understanding with the United States. 
While the statement calls for expeditious resolution of any 
requests to export to China, it often takes up to 80 days to 
obtain approval.  By that time, Gilad said, China has often 
found the item through another supplier.  Moreover, the 
Israeli export control system requires a 20-working day 
turn-around on all export license requests -- which is not 
possible, given the length of time required to obtain an 
answer from the United States.  A/S Shapiro offered to raise 
the issue in Washington. 
25. (SBU) A/S Shapiro suggested the next session of the Joint 
Political Military Group (JPMG) convene shortly after the 
Jewish holidays, most likely in October or early November. 
GOI officials agreed in principle, and will look at the 
calendar and propose dates. 
26.  (U) A/S Shapiro has cleared this cable. 
********************************************* ******************** 
Visit Embassy Tel Aviv's Classified Website: 
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