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Leaked Cables on Israel:
Palestinians Express Shock, Anxiety After Rabin Assassination

(November 5, 1995)


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Classified diplomatic cables, leaked by the whistleblower site WikiLeaks, contains reports released by the Embassy in Tel Aviv immediately after the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. This cable discusses the reaction of the Palestinians to the assassination and the hopes that Israel will still continue with its promises under the ongoing peace process formula.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 JERUSALEM 003642

SUBJECT: PALESTINIANS EXPRESS SHOCK, ANXIETY ABOUT THE FUTURE, AFTER RABIN ASSASSINATION

1.  CLASSIFIED BY EDWARD G. ABINGTON, CONSUL GENERAL. 1.5B-D.  THIS IS A JOINT CONGEN JERUSALEM, EMBASSY TEL AVIV CABLE.
 
2.  SUMMARY.  PALESTINIANS HAVE REACTED WITH SHOCK TO THE NOVEMBER 4 ASSASSINATION OF ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER YITZHAK RABIN, FOLLOWED BY ANXIETY ABOUT WHAT HIS DEATH MEANS TO THE PEACE PROCESS AND THEIR FUTURE.  WEST BANK AND GAZA ARE UNDER CLOSURE FOR AN INDEFINITE PERIOD, AND TOWNS WERE QUIET.  YASIR ARAFAT AND OTHER PA OFFICIALS HAVE EXPRESSED THEIR SHOCK AND SADNESS REGARDING RABIN'S DEATH, AND VOW THAT THE PEACE PROCESS WILL NOT BE DISRUPTED AS A RESULT. MAMAS AND PIJ "CELEBRATIONS" HAVE BEEN FIRMLY PROHIBITED; PALESTINIAN SECURITY CHIEFS DO NOT EXPECT THAT ISLAMISTS WILL TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE CRISIS TO CARRY OUT OPERATIONS.  PPF DEPLOYMENT INTO JENIN HAS BEEN DELAYED, PROBABLY ONLY FOR A FEW DAYS. END SUMMARY.

CONTENTS:

West Bank/Gaza Quiet as Palestinians Absorb the News
Arafat, PA Officials Shaken, Saddened by the News
Worries About the Future, Impact on the Peace Process
Palestinians Hope GOI will Clamp Down on its Extremists
Hamas, PIJ Relatively Quiet, for Now
Delays Expected, But Peace Process Must Continue


WEST BANK/GAZA QUIET AS PALESTINIANS ABSORB THE NEWS
--------------------------------------------- -------

3.  THE WEST BANK AND GAZA WAS ABNORMALLY QUIET THE DAY
AFTER RABIN'S ASSASSINATION, WITH MOST PALESTINIANS
APPEARING TO BE IN SHOCK ABOUT THE NEWS OF HIS MURDER
AND ANXIOUS ABOUT THE IMPACT IT WILL HAVE ON THE PEACE
PROCESS AND THEIR FUTURE.  THE GOI IMPOSED A COMPLETE
CLOSURE ON THE TERRITORIES--FOR AN INDEFINITE
PERIOD--THAT ENSURED THAT MANY PALESTINIANS REMAINED IN
THEIR HOMES, GLUED TO THEIR TELEVISIONS AND RADIOS
LISTENING TO NEWS REPORTS.  MANY WERE UP LATE THE NIGHT
OF THE KILLING, UNABLE TO SLEEP, AND THOSE AT BUSINESSES
AND COFFEE SHOPS NOVEMBER 5 SPENT THE DAY DISCUSSING THE
EVENT AND ITS EXPECTED IMPACT.
 
4.  GAZA CIVIL POLICE CHIEF GHAZI JABALI SAID PA POLICE
WERE NOT ALLOWING PALESTINIANS TO EXPRESS JOY AT THE
KILLING OF RABIN, BUT ADDED THAT SO FAR NO CELEBRATIONS
BROKE OUT, AND ONE THAT THREATENED TO OCCUR AT KHAN
YUNIS WAS SQUASHED BY PA POLICE.  ON INSTRUCTIONS FROM
ARAFAT, JERICHO PREVENTIVE SECURITY CHIEF JIBRIL RAJOUB
MET WITH WEST BANK MAMAS LEADERS IN THE EARLY MORNING
HOURS OF NOVEMBER 5 TO CONVEY ARAFAT'S WARNING THAT
THERE WERE TO BE NO DISRESPECTFUL DEMONSTRATIONS IN THE
STREETS.  RAJOUB SAID THAT MAMAS WAS TO CONVEY THE SAME
MESSAGE TO THE PIJ.  BOTH RAJOUB AND WEST BANK PPF
COMMANDER HAJ ISMAIL JABBER BELIEVED THE WEST BANK WOULD
REMAIN QUIET, BUT THE POTENTIAL FOR INSTABILITY DEPENDED
ON DEVELOPMENTS IN ISRAEL IN THE DAYS AND WEEKS AHEAD.
 
5.  BETHLEHEM MAYOR ILYAS FREIJ WAS "TERRIBLY UPSET,"
SAYING HE KNEW RABIN AS A FRIEND.  HE COMMENTED ON WHAT
COULD BE A "DISTURBING PHENOMENA IF EVERY LEADER WHO
TRIES TO MAKE PEACE IN THE REGION IS THREATENED WITH
GUNS."  JENIN MAYOR WALID ABU MUWAYZ SAID JENIN
RESIDENTS ARE SADDENED BY THE KILLING AND HOPE IT WILL
NOT AFFECT THE SCHEDULE FOR REDEPLOYMENT IN THEIR TOWN.
NABLUS MAYOR GHASSAN SHAKA SAID IT WAS A SAD DAY FOR
NABLUS, AND HE HOPES RABIN'S DEATH WILL NOT HAVE A
CATASTROPHIC EFFECT ON THE PEACE PROCESS.  FATAH
SUPPORTER AZZAM AL-ARAJ IN TULKAREM SAID THE PEOPLE
THERE ARE SHOCKED AND SADDENED, EVEN THE YOUNG ACTIVISTS
AT AN-NAJAH UNIVERSITY WHERE HE TEACHES.
 
 
ARAFAT, PA OFFICIALS SHAKEN, SADDENED BY THE NEWS
--------------------------------------------- ----
 
6.  PA OFFICIALS PUBLICLY EXPRESSED THEIR SADNESS AND
SHOCK TOWARDS THE ATTACK AND SENT CONDOLENCES TO THE
ISRAELI PEOPLE, AND FLAGS AT PA BUILDINGS WERE AT HALF
MAST.  YASIR ARAFAT, LOOKING VISIBLY SHAKEN AND SPEAKING
HALTINGLY AND QUIETLY, SAID PUBLICLY NOVEMBER 4 THAT HE
WAS "VERY SAD AND VERY SHOCKED BY THIS TERRIBLE CRIME,
AGAINST A GREAT ISRAELI LEADER AND AN ARCHITECT OF
PEACE.  IN THE NAME OF THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE, I SEND MY
CONDOLENCES TO MRS. RABIN, HER FAMILY, THE ISRAELI
GOVERNMENT AND THE ENTIRE ISRAELI PEOPLE.  I HOPE WE
WILL SUCCEED IN OVERCOMING THIS TRAGEDY, WHICH IS A BLOW
TO THE PEACE PROCESS."  ARAFAT'S JERICHO OFFICE DIRECTOR
SAMI MUSALLAM SAID ARAFAT WAS VERY UPSET BY THE
ASSASSINATION, AND HAD NOT SEEN HIM IN SUCH A STATE
SINCE THE ASSASSINATIONS OF ABU JIHAD AND ABU IYAD.
OTHER PA OFFICIALS, INCLUDING MILITARY LEADERS, WERE
ALSO UPSET, SAYING THE REGION HAD LOST A GREAT MAN OF
PEACE AND CALLING THE KILLING A DISASTER AND A
CATASTROPHE.  MANY OF THE PALESTINIAN POLITICAL,
SECURITY, AND ECONOMIC FIGURES VOICED A SENSE OF RELIEF
THAT THE ASSASSIN WAS NOT PALESTINIAN.
 
 
WORRIES ABOUT THE FUTURE, IMPACT ON THE PEACE PROCESS
--------------------------------------------- --------
 
7.  ALL PALESTINIANS EXPRESSED ANXIETY ABOUT THE EFFECT
OF THE KILLING ON THE PEACE PROCESS.  PA MINISTER OF
LOCAL AFFAIRS SA'EB ERAKAT SAID "WE HAVE AN AGREEMENT,
BUT OBVIOUSLY THIS COULD AFFECT IMPLEMENTATION."  HE
EXPRESSED CONCERN ABOUT THE PHENOMENON OF THE ISRAELI
RIGHT WING'S VIOLENCE IN OPPOSING THE PEACE PROCESS AND
WONDERED HOW THAT WILL EFFECT CO-EXISTENCE BETWEEN THE
TWO PEOPLES AND WHAT SUCH EXTREMISTS HAVE IN STORE FOR
PALESTINIANS DURING IMPLEMENTATION OF THE INTERIM
AGREEMENT AND ELECTIONS.  HE SAID PALESTINIANS CONTINUE
TO MOVE FORWARD ON PREPARATIONS FOR PALESTINIAN
ELECTIONS.  (NOTE:  THE PA CABINET YESTERDAY CONFIRMED
THE JANUARY 20 ELECTION DATE.)
 
8.  HEBRON UNIVERSITY PUBLIC RELATIONS DIRECTOR NABIL
ABU ZNEID EXPRESSED THE CONCERN OF MANY PALESTINIANS
WHEN HE SAID THE VOID LEFT BY RABIN MAY BE IMPOSSIBLE TO
FILL.  HE FELT THE CURRENT PEACE PROCESS WAS LESS A
PEACE BETWEEN PALESTINIANS AND ISRAELIS BUT MORE A PEACE
BETWEEN ARAFAT AND RABIN.  OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS THE
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE TWO HAD GRADUALLY GROWN
STRONGER AND MORE TRUSTING, AND THE TWO HAVE MADE BRAVE
DECISIONS FOR PEACE.  HE SAID "WE'VE LOST A GREAT MAN,"
AND LAMENTED THAT THERE IS NO OTHER ISRAELI LEADER AT
THIS TIME WITH RABIN'S PRO-PEACE ATTITUDE COUPLED WITH
MILITARY EXPERTISE AND KNOW-HOW.
 
9.  WEST BANK FATAH AND BUSINESS LEADERS WERE ALSO
SHOCKED AND PESSIMISTIC ABOUT THE FUTURE WITHOUT RABIN.
HIGHER COUNCIL MEMBER AHMAD AD-DEEK AND RAMALLAH LEADER
HUSSEIN ASH-SHEIKH ARE AFRAID HIS DEATH MARKS THE END OF
THE PEACE PROCESS.  THEY FEAR THE PROCESS WILL BE
SUSPENDED UNTIL THE NEXT ISRAELI ELECTION.  PADICO
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AMIN HADDAD SAID "WE ALL BELIEVE THIS
IS A HUGE LOSS TO THE PEACE PROCESS; NO PALESTINIAN WHO
IS THOUGHTFUL IS REJOICING."  CAIRO AMMAN BANK REGIONAL
MANAGER YUSUF BAZIAN SAID "ISRAELIS MAY HESITATE EVEN
MORE ABOUT TAKING DIFFICULT STEPS THAT THEY MUST TAKE;
MOREOVER, THEY MAY WONDER IF PEACE IS WORTH THE PRICE."
 
10.  MANY PALESTINIANS ALSO WORRIED ABOUT THE INTERNAL
SITUATION INSIDE ISRAEL, AND WERE INCREDULOUS THAT THE
KILLING HAS PERPETRATED BY AN ISRAELI.  HADDAD SAID THE
ASSASSINATION INDICATES THAT "ISRAEL HAS TRULY JOINED
THE MIDDLE EAST."  ANIS AL-QAQ, DEPUTY MINISTER IN THE
MINISTRY OF PLANNING, WONDERED IF ISRAEL WOULD COME
TOGETHER OR FRACTURE FURTHER OVER THE LOSS OF RABIN.
"MANY OF US WHO KNOW ISRAEL BELIEVE THE PRIDE OF ISRAELI
DEMOCRACY AND SENSE OF MORAL CERTAINTY WAS ALSO SHOT
YESTERDAY."
 
11.  MANY FEAR PERES IS NOT STRONG ENOUGH TO HOLD ISRAEL
OR THE PEACE PROCESS TOGETHER.  SAMI MUSALLAM, DIRECTOR
OF ARAFAT'S OFFICE IN JERICHO, SAID THAT ALTHOUGH PERES
ENJOYS SUPPORT AMONG YOUNGER IDF OFFICERS, HE DOES NOT
HAVE CLOSE RELATIONS WITH ANY OF THE CURRENT CLASS OF
REGIONAL AND FORCE COMMANDERS.  THE PALESTINIANS ARE
EXTREMELY WORRIED THAT PERES WILL NOT BE ABLE TO BRING
THE MILITARY TO HEEL DURING REDEPLOYMENT, IN THE WAY
RABIN HAD DONE.  THEY ARE WATCHING CLOSELY TO SEE WHO
WILL BE NAMED MINISTER OF DEFENSE IN ROBIN'S STEAD.
MUSALLAM SAID THAT AMNON SHAHAK WOULD BE FAR PREFERABLE
TO EHUD BARAK, IN TERMS OF EACH MAN'S SUPPORT FOR THE
PEACE PROCESS.  PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR HASSAN ASFOUR,
HOWEVER, SAID THAT DURING THE NOVEMBER 4 PA CABINET
MEETING, THE CABINET WISHED FOR AN ISRAELI LEADERSHIP
"DREAM TEAM" MADE UP OF PERES AS PRIME MINISTER, EHUD
BARAK AS DEFENSE MINISTER, AND HAIM RAMON AS FOREIGN
MINISTER.  MANY PALESTINIANS FEAR THAT NETANYAHU WILL
HAVE AN EASY TIME DEFEATING PERES IN FUTURE ELECTIONS.


PALESTINIANS HOPE GOI WILL COCK DOWN ON ITS EXTREMISTS
--------------------------------------------- ----------
 
12.  A COMMON REACTION AMONG PALESTINIANS WAS THAT
RABIN'S MURDER WOULD HURT THE FAR-RIGHT OPPONENTS OF
PEACE.  PALESTINE BUSINESSMEN'S ASSOCIATION LEADER HANI
ABU DAYYEH SAID THE KILLING WOULD DISCREDIT THE
FAR-RIGHT AND GIVE THE GOI THE CHANCE TO ACT AGAINST
ISRAELI EXTREMISTS THAT "HAS MISSED AFTER THE HEBRON
MASSACRE."   AL-QAQ COMMENTED THAT "ISRAEL HAS
OVERLOOKED A TREND TOWARD VIOLENT FORCES ALLOWED TO
OPERATE WITHIN ITS SOCIETY--THIS CAN NO LONGER BE
IGNORED.  THIS IS THE MOST PAINFUL PRICE ISRAEL CAN PAY
FOR ALLOWING PARTS OF THE SOCIETY TO ACT AS IF THEY WERE
ABOVE THE LAW."
 
13.  PPF POLICE CHIEF NASIR YUSIF SAID THE ASSASSINATION
HAS A "CATASTROPHE" THAT WILL "NO DOUBT IMPOSE ON ALL
THE NEED TO CONFRONT WITH ALL FIRMNESS EXTREMISM IN THE
REGION."  GAZA PREVENTIVE SECURITY CHIEF MUHAMMAD DAHLAN
SAID IT "SHOULD BE A LESSON FOR THE ISRAELIS TO SEE THE
DANGER IN THEIR OWN EXTREMISTS."  FORMER PEACE TERMER
NABIL KASSIS SAID IN ORDER TO LESSEN THE INFLUENCE OF
THE EXTREMISTS, THE GOI IN GENERAL MUST WORK HARDER TO
EDUCATE ITS PEOPLE ABOUT PEACEFUL CO-EXISTENCE WITH
PALESTINIANS OTHER THAN VIEWING THEM ONLY AS A SECURITY
THREAT.  WHILE BETHLEHEM MAYOR FREIJ HOPES THE
ASSASSINATION WILL UNDERCUT THE CREDIBILITY OF THE
ISRAELI EXTREMISTS, HE WORRIES THAT IT MAY INSTEAD MAKE
THEM MORE AGGRESSIVE.
 

HAMAS, PIJ RELATIVELY QUIET, FOR NOW
------------------------------------
 
14.  HAMAS AND PIJ SUPPORTERS WERE GENERALLY QUIET, WITH
PA SECURITY OFFICERS AND FATAH MEMBERS THROUGHOUT THE
WEST BANK AND GAZA ENSURING THAT CELEBRATIONS WOULD NOT
OCCUR.  TEL AVIV POLOFF SAW NO INDICATION OF EXTREMIST
CELEBRATIONS IN GAZA.  SALAH SAKKA, A GAZA CITY COUNCIL
MEMBER, SAID THAT THE MOOD LAST NIGHT IN KHAN YUNIS
AMONG ISLAMISTS HAS HAPPY, BUT THERE WERE NO PUBLIC
RALLIES, JUST BULLETS SHOT INTO THE AIR.  PA POLICE
PRESENCE IN KHAN YUNIS HAS VERY HIGH.  PLO CHAIRMAN
ARAFAT TOLD THE CG THAT STRICT ORDERS HAD GONE OUT TO
PREVENT CELEBRATIONS, INCLUDING FIRING IN THE AIR.
 
15.  IN HEBRON, SOME ISLAMIC SUPPORTERS FELT RABIN'S
KILLING HAS AN EVENT WORTH CELEBRATING--SEEING IT AS AN
END TO THE PEACE PROCESS--BUT DID NOT YET ACT ON THAT
IMPULSE.  HEBRON LEADERS SAID THE CITY WAS COWLING WITH
IDF SOLDIERS.  PALESTINIAN EXTREMISTS WERE ALSO HOPING
RABIN'S MURDER WILL LEAD TO MORE DIVISIONS IN ISRAELI
SOCIETY.  HAMAS FOLLOWERS IN TULKAREM REPORTEDLY
CONSIDERED THE ASSASSINATION THE "ACT OF A COWARD."
KHALIL SHIQAQI, RESEARCH DIRECTOR AT THE CENTER FOR
PALESTINE RESEARCH AND STUDIES IN NABLUS AND BROTHER OF
RECENTLY ASSASSINATED PALESTINE ISLAMIC JIHAD LEADER
FATHI SHIQAQI, SAID THAT SOME OF THE RADICAL PALESTINIAN
FACTIONS ARE SAYING THAT RABIN'S ASSASSINATION WAS "AN
ACT OF GOD," IMPLYING THAT THEY WILL NOT HAVE TO AVENGE
SHIQAQI'S DEATH.
 
 
DELAYS EXPECTED, BUT PEACE PROCESS MUST CONTINUE
--------------------------------------------- ---
 
16.  MANY PALESTINIANS UNDERSTAND SOME DELAYS ARE TO BE
EXPECTED IN THE PEACE PROCESS AS A RESULT OF ROBIN'S
DEATH, BUT HOPE PRESIDENT CLINTON AND OTHER LEADERS WILL
STRESS THE IMPORTANCE OF BRAVELY GOING FORWARD AT
RABIN'S FUNERAL.  CAB REGIONAL MANAGER BAZIAN SAID
PALESTINIANS MUST BE SMART AND "UNDERSTAND THE THE
ISRAELIS WILL NEED TIME TO SORT THIS OUT.  WE SHOULD
GIVE THEM THIS TIME, BUT INSIST ON OUR RIGHTS UNDER THE
AGREEMENT."  WEST BANK PPF COMMANDER HAJJ ISMAIL
REPORTED THAT HE HAD SPOKEN WITH IDF CENTRAL COMMAND MG
ILAN BIRAN EARLIER IN THE DAY NOVEMBER 5 TO CONVEY HIS
CONDOLENCES AND DISCUSS THE EFFECT OF THE ASSASSINATION
ON PLANS FOR REDEPLOYMENT.  ANOTHER PPF CONTINGENT HAD
BEEN SCHEDULED TO DEPART JERICHO FOR JENIN NOVEMBER 5;
HAJ ISMAIL AGREED TO BIRAN'S REQUEST THAT ANY MOVEMENT
ON REDEPLOYMENT BE POSTPONED FOR "A FEW DAYS."  HAJ
ISMAIL DID NOT EXPECT THAT THE REDEPLOYMENT/DEPLOYMENT
SCHEDULE WOULD BE UNDULY DELAYED BUT ECHOES MUSALLEM'S
CONCERN THAT PERES MAY NOT BE ABLE TO MAKE THE IDF KEEP
ITS REDEPLOYMENT COMMITTMENTS.
 
ABINGTON


Sources: Wikileaks

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