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Leaked Cables on Israel:
Israel Again Faces its Palestinian Dilemma

(November 26, 1975)


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Classified diplomatic cables, leaked by the whistleblower site WikiLeaks, contain discussions about recent pro-Palestinian resolutions at the UN and pressure on Israel to rethink its positions on the peace process as well as an assessment of the unlikelihood of a change in Israeli policy given recent events.

CONFIDENTIAL

FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9142

SUBJECT:  ISRAEL AGAIN FACES ITS PALESTINIAN DILEMMA

1.  SUMMARY:  AFTER RABAT CONFERENCE AND ARAFAT'S UNGA APPEARANCE LAST YEAR, GOI WAS APRED NECESSITY OF REASSESSING ITS PALESTINIAN POLICY. RECENT EVENTS HAVE AGAIN FORCED THIS ISSUE TO FOREFRONT OF INTERNATIONAL STAGE, AND HAVE LED ISRAELI POLITICANS AND COMMENTATORS TO BEGIN TAKING HARD SECOND-LOOK. CONFLUENCE OF EVENTS IN LAST MONTH--PARTICULARLY PASSAGE OF TWO PRO-PLO RESOLUTIONS AT UNGA, APPEARANCE OF SAUNDERS DOCUMENT, AND PROMINENCE OF PALESTINIAN ISSUE IN FOREIGN MINISTER ALLON'S EUROPEAN TRIP--HAS DRIVEN HOME MESSAGE OF INCREASING INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE FOR ACTION. ISRAELI LEADERS ARE BECOMING AWARE THAT THEIR FRIENDS ABROAD EXPECT SOMETHING NEW FROM THEM. AT THIS POINT, HOWEVER, WE DO NOT SEE GOI COMING UP WITH ANY NEW APPROACH. PRIME MINISTER RABIN'S PUBLIC STATEMENTS HAVE BEEN LIMITED TO STRONG REAFFIRMATION OF GOI POSITION. ALLON IN PRESS BACKGROUNDERS HAS ALLUDED TO INTENTION TO FLOAT NEW INITIATIVE IN NEXT WEEKS, BUT COMMENTATORS ARE SKEPTICAL. CHAIRMAN OF KNESSET FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND SECURITY COMMITTEE NAVON, EX-FOREIGN MINISTER EBAN, EX-HISTADRUT HEAD BEN-AHARON, MAPAM/ILP MINISTERS AND HOST OF MODERATE COMMENTATORS FAVOR "YARIV FORMULA" (EXPRESSING READINESS TO TALK WITH ANY PALESTINIAN ORGANIZATION ACCEPTING ISRAE AND RENOUNCING USE OF TERROR) WHICH GOI HAD REJECTED LAST YEAR. SOME LOCAL OBSERVERS BELIEVE CABINET MAY RECONSIDER THIS APPROACH IN COMING MONTHS, BUT VIEWS ARE DIVIDED ON WHETHER EVEN THIS KIND OF TACTICAL STEP WOULD PASS. FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE, ISRAEL'S PALESTINIAN DILEMMA DESPITE NEW FERMENT APPEARS AS INTRACTABLE AS BEFORE. DOMESTIC POLITICAL CONSTRAINTS CONTINUE TO OPERATE AGAINST BOLD NEW INITIATIVES, AND LATEST TERRORIST INCIDENTS FURTHER REINFORCE DISINCLINATION TO RECONSIDER PALESTINIAN POLICY.
END SUMMARY.

2.  THE PALESTINIAN ISSUE: A YEAR OF NEGLECT. AFTER RABAT CONFERENCE AND ARAFAT'S UNGA SPEECH, ISRAEL PUT PALESTINIAN ISSUE ON BACKBURNER AND CONCENTRATED ITS DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS ON NEGOTIATING INTERIM AGREEMENT WITH EGYPT. IN SUMMER 1974 GOI HAD SPELLED OUT ITS POSITION ON PALESTINIAN QUESTION IN UNEQUIVOCAL TERMS (A SOLUTION FOR THE PALESTINIAN PROBLEM WAS TO EMERGE IN THE CONTEXT OF A SETTLEMENT WITH JORDAN; THERE WAS ROOM FOR ONLY TWO STATES IN THE AREA MANDATORY PALESTINE; AND THERE WOULD BE NO NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE "SO-CALLED PLO"). FOR THE GOVERNMENT, AND MOST OF THE ISRAELI PUBLIC, THIS WAS A SUFFICIENT ANSWER TO A PROBLEM FOR WHICH NO BETTER ALTERNATIVE--FROM AN ISRAELI PERSPECTIVE--SEEMED AVAILABLE. THE ONE EFFORT TO INTRODUCE SOME OTHER APPROACH WAS THE INSTANTLY-ABORTED INITIATIVE OF THEN MINISTER OF INFORMATION YARIV IN JULY 1974 PROPOSING THAT GOI DECLARE ITS READINESS TO NEGOTIATE WITH ANY ORGANIZATION PREPARED TO RECOGNIZE ISRAEL'S EXISTENCE AND RENOUNCE USE OF TERROR. RABIN SHOT DOWN THIS INITIATIVE, IN LARGE MEASURE SO AS NOT TO PRECLUDE WHAT AT THAT TIME STILL APPEARED TO BE A LIVE JORDANIAN OPTION AND ALSO IN ORDER TO AVOID CREATING UNNECESSARY DOMESTIC PROBLEMS FOR HIS FLEDGLING COALITITION GOVERNMENT.

3.  AFTER A YEAR IN WHICH DOMESTIC DISCUSSION OF THE PALESTINIAN QUESTION LANGUISHED, IT HAS NOW BEEN PROPELLED TO THE FOREFRONT OF PUBLIC ATTENTION BY THREE DEVELOPMENTS THIS MONTH: A) PASSAGE BY UNGA OF TWO PRO-PALESTINIAN RESOLUTIONS, ONE CALLING FOR PLO INVITATION TO RECONVENED GENEVA CONFERENCE AND THE OTHER ESTABLISHING A COMMITTEE TO STUDY WAYS OF IMPLEMENTING PALESTINIANS RIGHTS. ISRAELI COMMENTATORS WERE QUICK TO NOTE THAT PALESTINIAN RESOLUTIONS GRNERED MORE INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT THAN UNGA'S CONDEMNATION OF ZIONISM; B) PUBLICITY ACCORDED SAUNDERS HIRC TESTIMONY WHICH, ALTHOUGH PRESENTED AS NON-OPERATIONAL DOCUMENT AND FOLLOWED BY SECRETARY'S REPEATED DECLARATIONS THAT IT CONTAINED NO CHANGE OF US POLICY ON PLO, WAS READ HERE AS SIGNAL OF US INTENTION TO GIVE GREATER CENTRALITY AND URGENCY TO SOLUTION OF PALESTINIAN PROBLEM (KNESSET DELEGATION RETURNED FROM US WITH THIS JUDGMENT); AND C) IMPRESSION GAINED BY ALLON DURING LATEST EUROPEAN TRIP THAT ADEQUACY OF ISRAELI POSITION ONPALESTINIANS IS UNDER CHALLENGE EVEN BY TRADITIONAL FRIENDS. ALLON TOLD TV INTERVIEWERS THAT PALESTINIAN ISSUE WAS PROMINENT SUBJECT IN HIS DISCUSSIONS WITH DUTCH AND BELGIANS, AND IN HIS MEETINGS WITH EUROPEAN SOCIALISTS AT MANNHEIM, ALL OF HAD URGED GOI TO RECONSIDER ITS POSITION.

4.  THERE SEEMS TO BE CONSIDERABLE UNCERTAINTY AMONG ISRAELI COMMENTATORS AS TO SIGNIFICANCE OF SAUNDERS DOCUMENT FOR US MIDDLE EAST POLICY. ON ONE HAND THEY HAVE NOTED SECRETARY'S STATEMENTS OF NO CHANGE, US REJECTION OF SOVIET PROPOSAL FOR CONVENING OF GENEVA CONFERENCE WITH PLO PARTICIPATION, AND SIGNS OF CONTINUING PREFERENCE FOR EFFORT AT INITIATING NEGOTIATIONS FOR SYRIAN/ISRAELI INTERIM AGREEMENT. ON OTHER HAND, THEY HAVE PICKED UP MAIN CRITICAL THEMES OF NOVEMBER 16 CABINET DISCUSSION (TA 7291) AND SPECULATED THAT DOCUMENT WAS TRIAL BALLOON SIGNALLING ENHANCED US RECEPTIVITY TO POSSIBLE CHANGE IN PLO'S POSITION ON ISRAEL.

5.  AS TO SENIOR LEADERSHIP, RABIN HAS NOT SIGNIFICANTLY ENLIGHTENED LISRAELI PUBLIC, ON ONE HAND ATTACKING SAUNDERS DOCUMENT IN SPEECH NOVEMBER 20 AS REPLETE WITH MISREPRESENTATIONS AND DISTORTIONS WHILE ON THE OTHER HAND ISSUING LOW-KEY CLARIFICATION TO PRESS THAT IT DOES NOT REPRESENT CHANGE IN US POLICY. DEFENSE MINISTER PERES REPORTEDLY READ SAUNDERS DOCUMENT AS REPRESENTING SEVERAL SIGNALS: US ENCOURAGEMENT FOR RENEWAL OF UNDOF MANDATE BY SYRIANS, WHO HAVE BEEN URGING SOME STEP TOWARD THE PALESTINIANS; AND AN EFFORT TO INFLUENCE CHANGE IN PLO POSTURE TOWARD RECOGNITION OF ISRAEL SO AS TO OPEN UP NEW NEGOTIATING OPTION.

6.  DIPLOMATIC COMMENTATORS OVER WEEKEND HAVE HIGHLIGHTED STORIES, PRESUMABLY ON BACKGROUND FROM MFA, THAT ALLON IS CONSIDERING NEW PALESTINIAN INITIATIVE IN NEXT WEEKS. LOCAL OBSERVERS ARE UNCERTAIN WHAT HE HAS IN MIND. WE HAVE HEARD FOLLOWING GUESSES:  A) HE IS RECONSIDERING "YARIV FORMULA"; B) HE WILL PROPOSE PLAN FOR INCREASED AUTONOMY OF WEST BANK; C) HE WILL SUGGEST SOME KIND OF FEDERATION SCHEME; AND D) HE WILL CONFINE HIMSELF TO VAGUE FORMULAS. IN ANY CASE, THERE SEEMS TO BE WIDE LOCAL CONSENSUS THAT ANY NEW PROPOSAL, WHETHER FROM ALLON OR OTHER MINISTER, WILL FACE TOUGH CHALLENGE IN CABINET.

7.  IT IS TOO EARLY TO OFFER A FIRM JUDGMENT ON WHAT, IF ANY, CHANGES THERE WILL BE IN GOI POLICY. ISRAELIS STILL PREFER A JORDANIAN OPTION AND OPE ARABS WILL ONE DAY REVERSE RABAT DECISION. AT SAME TIME THERE IS NEW FERMENT RE NECESSITY OF EXAMINING OTHER OPTIONS, OF ONLY FOR TACTICAL PURPOSES. MODERATE ELEMENTS WITH LABOR PARTY--INCLUDING NAVON, BEN AHARON AND EBAN--AS WELL AS MAPAM AND INDEPENDENT LIBERALS LEADERS HAVE PRESSED FOR RECONSIDERATION OF YARIV FORMULA. EDITORS AND COMMENTATORS ARE URGING GOVERNMENT TO CONDUCT NEW POLICY DEBATE AND FORMULATE NEW APPROACH. SOME OF THEM ALSO RECOMMEND THAT RABIN MOVE UP THE NEXT ELECTION FROM END OF 1977 TO AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE  IN 1976 IN ORDERTO GET A "PEACE MANDATE". ON OTHER HAND, MORE HARDLINE ELEMENTS IN LABOR PARTY AS WELL AS NATIONAL RELIGIOUS PARTY CAN BE EXPECTED TO OPPOSE EVEN TACTICAL OPENING TO PALESTINIAN ORGANIZATIONS.

8.  AT THIS STAGE, OUR TENTATIVE CONCLUSION IS THAT ISRAELI REACTIONS ON PALESTINIAN ISSUE ONCE AGAIN HAVE DRAMATIZED NEURALGIC SENSITITIVTY HERE TO PLO CHALLENGE AND DEFENSIVENESS OF GOI POSITION, BUT THAT LATEST DEVELOPMENTS HAVE NOT GENERATED NEW IDEAS OR PROPOSALS. MOREOVER, CONSTRAINTS OF COALITION POLITICS CONTINUE AS IN PAST TO OPERATE AS DISINCENTIVE FOR CONSIDERATION OF NEW INITIATIVES. TERRORIST INCIDENTS, SUCH AS NOVEMBER 13 JERUSALEM EXPLOSION AND NOVEMBER 20 PENETRATION OF GOLAN HEIGHTS RELIGIOUS SETTLEMENT, ALSO HEAVILY CONDITION POLITICAL ATMOSPHERE. IN SUM, RECENT EVENTS-- PARTICULARLY SAUNDERS DOCUMENT--HAVE PROVOKED SOME RETHINKING BUT INERTIA INHERENT IN ISRAELI POSITION ON THIS CRUCIAL QUESTION REMAINS ESSENTIALLY UNAFFECTED THUS FAR.

DUNNIGAN


Sources: Wikileaks

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