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Leaked Cables on Israel: Amb. Rice and FM Lieberman Discuss Negotiations and Goldstone Report

(October 27, 2009)

Classified U.S. diplomatic cables, leaked by the whistleblower site WikiLeaks, contained details of an October 21, 2009, meeting between U.S. Ambassador to the UN and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman during which the two discussed the Israeli response to the Goldstone Report on Israeli Operation Cast Lead and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ambassador Rice emphasized that it was in both U.S. and Israeli national interests to return to the negotiating table and achieve a comprehensive peace agreement. Regarding the Goldstone Report, Ambassador Rice said there had been "positive US engagement with the Israeli Missions in New York and Geneva to blunt the effects of the Goldstone Report in the UN Human Rights Council."

27 October 2009
C O N F I D E N T I A L TEL AVIV 002365
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/27/2029
Classified By: Ambassador James Cunningham. Reasons: 1.4 (b), (d).

1. (C) Summary: U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan E. Rice met with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on October 21. Ambassador Rice emphasized that it is in both U.S. and Israeli national interests that serious negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians must begin ) and conclude ) to achieve a comprehensive agreement. Lieberman made clear that, while he is in favor of starting direct talks with the Palestinians, he does not believe that a comprehensive peace is possible. Rice and Lieberman discussed the Goldstone Report and Israel's response to it, as well as likely next steps in New York. Lieberman stressed that Israel has a strong commitment to human rights and condemned the hypocrisy of those Human Rights Council members that criticize Israel. Iran's nuclear ambitions and the current state of play in Afghanistan and Pakistan were also raised. End Summary.

2.(C) Ambassador Susan Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Goldstone report and Iran on October 21. The conversation also touched on the current situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. FM Lieberman was accompanied by Deputy FM Daniel Ayalon, Deputy Director General for North America Barukh Bina, Director General Yossi Gal, Chief of Policy Staff Yitzhak Bachman, Chief of Staff Sharon Shalom, and Deputy Director General for UN and International Organizations Evietar Manor. Ambassador Rice was accompanied by Ambassador James Cunningham, NSC Middle East Senior Director Dan Shapiro, USUN staffers Amy Schedlbauer, Warren Bass and Mark Kornblau, and an Embassy notetaker.

Lieberman: "Comprehensive Solution Impossible" --------------------------------------------- --

3.(C) Ambassador Rice opened the meeting by stressing that a comprehensive agreement between Israel and the Palestinians was in the U.S. national interest, as well as in the interest of Israel and Palestinians. It was important to promptly begin ) and to conclude ) negotiations to achieve a comprehensive settlement.

4. (C) Lieberman said relations between Israelis and Palestinians were generally misunderstood, and that he had tried to explain this point to Senator Mitchell. Israel worked closely with the Palestinian Authority, with General Dayton, and with the Palestinian security forces. The biggest problem for all responsible governments was extremists. The biggest problem of PM Fayyad and President Abbas (Abu Mazen) wasn't Israel but Hamas. Hizbullah was the biggest problem for the Lebanese government, just as Mubarak's biggest problem was the Muslim Brotherhood and the Taliban was the biggest problem in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

5. (C) Lieberman assessed that Abu Mazen was trying to have it both ways, a strategy that could never work. He was trying to continue to work with Israel while trying to be tougher and more radical than Hamas. Lieberman urged that there should be no illusions, and that the parties must acknowledge the limits of the possible. Israel had been trying to negotiate with the Palestinians for 16 years, under a broad range of leaders, but there was still a deadlock. The issue was not logical, but emotional ) and in part about symbols. Israel and the U.S. had a responsibility not to foster illusions, he said. A comprehensive peace agreement was impossible, as it was in such conflicts as Cyprus and Nagorno Karabakh. The first steps should be stability and prosperity, he argued. There was just too much distrust between the two sides to address final status issues. Both sides would be obligated not to support violence and incitement. Lieberman cited Cyprus as an example that Israel might emulate, claiming that no comprehensive solution was possible, but security, stability and prosperity were.

6. (C) Lieberman complained that the Palestinians were too focused on elections and asked that the U.S. also convey this message to them. Israel was surprised to hear Abbas talking about voters, constituencies and slogans, instead of talking about peace. NSC Senior Director Shapiro noted that Abbas was required by the Basic Law to make a declaration of an election by October 25. Lieberman was undeterred, noting that the last PA elections had been problematic and that not all elections would have a positive outcome. Palestinian incitement, and continuous attacks against Israel in international fora, undermined the possibility of continued dialogue with Israel. Shapiro-Rice stressed the short-term importance of restarting talks.

Goldstone ---------

7. (C) Lieberman thanked Ambassador Rice for the U.S. position on the Goldstone report in the Human Rights Council. Ambassador Rice highlighted positive U.S. engagement with the Israeli Missions in New York and Geneva to blunt the effects of the Goldstone report in those fora. She noted that we had the potential in the Security Council to build a blocking coalition that agrees that the Security Council is not the appropriate forum to consider the report. The USG statement in Geneva had emphasized that a credible domestic Israeli investigation would facilitate this effort.

8. (C) Lieberman said that if the Palestinians continue steps in the ICC and elsewhere, it could end the peace process. Lieberman said that Israel has a strong commitment to human rights, but lamented that Cuba, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Venezuela control majorities at the Human Rights Council and could pass any resolution that they wanted to. The hypocrisy of such countries blaming Israel for violence and war crimes, and filing a law suit at the International Criminal Court, was intolerable. All countries who have friction with their minority groups should take note, because after such human-rights abusers finished with Israel, they would go after others. This drive to criticize Israel had spilled over into technical fora that were supposed to address issues like the environment, energy and education, and all were being tainted by automatic majorities. Israel's justice system was very strong ) it could monitor its own behavior better than anyone else.

9. (C) Israeli Director General Yossi Gal asked about next steps on Goldstone in New York. Ambassador Rice explained that the Arab Group in New York was consulting amongst themselves and that there seem to be some fissures in the Arab Group. The Arab Group is approaching the P5 to "take their temperature." It was likely that something would evolve first in the General Assembly that neither Israel nor the U.S. would like. The numbers were not in Israel's favor, and this was a fact of life. The U.S. would try to rally opposition to any problematic GA text. It was hard to know at this time what outcome the Goldstone report's supporters might seek at the UNSC.

10. (C) Gal noted that the Palestinian Minister of Justice, accompanied by international law experts, had met October 16 with the ICC prosecutor and that Palestinian representatives continued to be active in New York and Geneva. Lieberman emphasized that across the Israeli political spectrum, including Kadima, there was consensus that if the Palestinians continued to pursue action against Israel at the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice, it would end the peace process. The Palestinians had urged Israel to topple Hamas during the December-January Gaza operation, Lieberman noted, and then in January had filed suit against Israel at the ICC. As of October 21, Gal added, the Palestinians and Syrians were still pushing for UNSC action, while the Egyptians preferred action at the UNGA. Shapiro noted that we had told the Palestinians that we did not support an ICC referral as it was not a constructive path. Abu Mazen had agreed, but the Palestinian political calculus had changed after the negative reaction to the original Palestinian agreement to defer action at the regular session of the Human Rights Council. Ambassador Rice underlined again that it would be very helpful in New York if Israeli domestic investigative processes were underway and urged that those be grounded in Israel's democratic traditions.

Iran ----

11. (C) FM Lieberman said that Israel wanted to believe that the U.S. could achieve a positive outcome in countering the Iranian nuclear threat, but that in the Israeli experience, Iran only wanted to buy and waste time. Ambassador Rice outlined the U.S. two-track approach. The U.S. expected to have a clearer picture of Iranian intentions within weeks, but in the meantime would continue to plan for the prospect that more pressure might be needed. The Geneva meetings had been a constructive beginning, but we would need to see what emerged from the Vienna negotiations.

Afghanistan/Pakistan --------------------

12. (C) FM Lieberman asked for Ambassador Rice's views on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ambassador Rice noted that this was a delicate moment in Afghanistan, and that President Karzai's acceptance of a second electoral round was welcome. There had been some high-stakes diplomatic brinkmanship to make it happen. There were big logistical challenges in preparing for the November 2 run-off elections.

13. (C) On Pakistan, Ambassador Rice highlighted the potential for a humanitarian crisis in South Waziristan with the approach of winter. The pace of attacks in Pakistan had quickened, and the political fallout on the government of Pakistan was still unclear.


Sources: Jerusalem Post; Wikileaks