Cablegate: Knesset Speaker Says Israel Must React Strongly To

Published: Fri 14 Jul 2006 11:51 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 002788
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/14/2016
Classified By: Ambassador Richard H. Jones for reasons 1.4 (b,d).
1. (C) Summary: Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik told the
Ambassador July 12 that Israel must react strongly to
Hizballah's July 12 kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers and
killing of eight others in its cross-border attacks that day
and that Israel cannot appear weak. She expressed hope that
the international community, especially the Europeans, will
respond strongly against Hizballah's actions. The Ambassador
said he understood the need for Israel to react, but stressed
that Israel should focus its response on Hizballah and avoid
harm to civilians that could cause the Lebanese public to
rally around Hizballah and cause Israel to lose support from
the international community. He emphasized that the more
highly-focused the Israeli response is, the more likely
Israel can maintain international support for its response.
The Ambassador raised legislative issues with Itzik as well,
reported septel. Itzik was joined by her diplomatic advisor,
Ambassador Ya'akov Levy, and MFA North America Division chief
Dan Arbell. End summary.
Itzik: Lebanon Should be Held Responsible
2. (C) In their first meeting since Itzik became Knesset
Speaker, Kadima MK Dalia Itzik told the Ambassador that
"(Israel) will react strongly" to the Hizballah actions of
July 12, and that Israel cannot appear weak. She said that
the GOI had previously received "hints" of a Hizballah
attack, including an attempt to kidnap IDF soldiers. She
commented that "(Hizballah) wants to show that they can do
this." Accurately characterizing herself as "not in the
right wing," Itzik assessed that the Israeli public questions
whether Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon was seen as
a weakness by Hizballah, and reasoned that "it's about time
to react.... the game is finished." Itzik also criticized
Syria for its continued involvement in Lebanon. Diplomatic
Advisor Levy added that Israel cannot "absolve" the Lebanese
government of responsibility for the Hizballah actions. He
said that the GOL should have deployed its forces in the
south of Lebanon. Itzik echoed Levy's assessment that the
GOL should be held responsible. She called on the USG to
issue an immediate statement that the USG holds the GOL
responsible for the safety of the kidnapped IDF soldiers.
3. (C) The Ambassador said he understands Israel's need to
react, but emphasized that Israel should focus its response
on Hizballah and avoid collateral harm to civilians in order
to prevent the Lebanese public from rallying around Hizballah
and to ensure international support for Israeli actions. He
noted that the recent IDF bombing of the electrical plant in
Gaza had cost Israel significant international support.
Itzik responded that Israel has "no interest to widen" the
conflict, but she commented that Hizballah has "dared too
much" and that Israel can not ignore this. The Ambassador
said he understood that the GOL was to have a cabinet meeting
that day and that Lebanese PM Siniora could make a statement
criticizing the Hizballah actions. The Ambassador said it
was important that Israel not take steps which make it more
difficult for Siniora to win support for a strong statement
putting pressure on Hizballah.
Waiting for the EU
4. (C) Itzik expressed concern about how the international
community, and especially the Europeans, would react to
Hizballah's actions. She commented that Israel would have to
"work on" obtaining a satisfactory response from the EU and
noted her desire for strong U.S. and EU statements on the
current crisis. The Ambassador assured her that the White
House would soon issue a statement. During the meeting,
Itzik asked her assistant to place a call to the EC
Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner to
discuss any European response. The Ambassador said that the
Hizballah actions might be an opportunity to elicit an EU
decision to designate Hizballah as a terrorist organization.
Knesset Role
5. (SBU) In response to the Ambassador's query, Itzik said
that the Cabinet alone can approve any MOD military
operations in Lebanon, and that the Knesset has no formal
role. She added, however, that any group of at least 40 MKs
could request that PM Olmert come before the Knesset to
address any issue. Itzik said that while the Knesset is
scheduled to go on recess as of July 20, lasting until
mid-October, she expects Knesset members will call for
special plenary sessions in light of the current situation.
(Note: A special Knesset plenary session during the summer
recess can be called by 25 MKs or by the Government. End
note.) She noted that Knesset committees would continue to
meet, in any case.
Bio Note
6. (SBU) Despite the day's events, Itzik seemed relaxed,
joked, and asked the Ambassador questions about his family.
Her English is excellent. She commented at the beginning of
the meeting that she left the Labor Party along with
Ministers Shimon Peres and Haim Ramon, to join Kadima when
then-PM Sharon still headed Kadima. Itzik unenthusiastically
remarked that she is "satisfied" with Kadima.
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