Cablegate: Settlement Freeze: Yedioth Report On Idf Concerns Regarding

Published: Fri 4 Dec 2009 12:20 PM
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1. (U) Influential journalist Alex Fishman, lead military
correspondent for Yedioth Ahronoth, published an article on Friday,
December 4 (Note: this is the equivalent to the Sunday paper) in
which he conveyed IDF concerns about the extent of GOI political
support for IDF efforts to uphold the law in the West Bank,
especially on outposts, and for their failure to uphold previous
commitments on settlements. Fishman adds his own criticism of the
GOI for undermining U.S. efforts to build a regional coalition
against Iran through unhelpful actions and rhetoric. Fishman writes
that as the IDF enforces the current settlement freeze, it is
wondering if the political leadership will once again "send troops
to a mission" while betraying that mission with a "wink" to the
settlers. The full text of the article, as translated from Hebrew
by Israel News Today, appears in paragraph 3.
2. (SBU) COMMENT: The Embassy is repeating this article for two
reasons. First, the article is significant because appears in
Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's largest circulation daily. Unlike
Ha'aretz, Yedioth Ahronoth is written for the Israeli mainstream;
its audience is "middle Israel" rather than the expatriate community
and Israeli intellectuals. The tone of the article is unusually
harsh for both the newspaper and the author. Second, Alex Fishman
maintains very close ties to the leadership of the IDF. He is their
favorite avenue for strategic leaks and his articles, while
reflecting his own opinions, almost always capture the pulse of
3. (U) See below for the full text of Alex Fishman's article.
Yedioth Ahronoth (p. B4) by Alex Fishman -- In two to three months,
around February-March, the free world will move on to a new phase in
its confrontation with Iran. There is already an understanding,
including among the Americans, that the Iranians have no intention
of accepting any compromise offered. All efforts at dialogue have so
far ended in failure. Even the Russians realize this and are now
The International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to reach a
decision this month, which will lead the UN Security Council to
tighten economic and political sanctions against Iran. Approving
this and garnering international support will take at least two
months. The Americans are acting wisely and patiently this time
around. They don't want to go at it alone. They're reaching
understandings with all sides.
Only the Chinese are left. The Saudis, for their part, have been
recruited to guarding their oil prices the day after sanctions on
Iran are imposed. And at the same time economic sanctions begin, so
will the military clock start ticking.
Only America's intimate and strategic partner is dealing with
trivialities. Senior administration officials have not said this
clearly to the defense minister or the prime minister, when the two
visited Washington, but this is what they are thinking and
transmitting: We're fed up with you! You want money, aid,
cooperation? Start behaving like allies. Our present day interest
mandates quiet in the Middle East. Do not disturb!
Your contribution to the game ought to be calming the region by
reviving the peace process with the Palestinians. After all, it was
you who suggested, as far back as September, the idea of freezing
settlement construction as a means of bringing Abu Mazen back to
talks, so do something with this. We don't really believe in this
move, but you're the ones who sold us on this whole temporary
constructin freeze idea, so at least stand by it.
This wa not said in words. There is still diplomatic cordality.
But there's nobody who isn't getting the essage, which states:
"we're heading towards an escalation with Iran, and recruiting the
entire wold, so stop behaving like the spoiled and delinquet kid
in class."
Seriousness Fees
On Sundaythe government decided to join the enlightened world, to
behave properly and to abide by its commitments. But someone who has
grown accustomed to lying all these years, one who has always
announced day and night that he is upholding the law, all the while
sending winks to the settlers, and making it clear to them that they
are his favorites - has a hard time going clean.
For decades the state has existed in the shadow of these lies, and
everyone knew, including the army.
On the eve of concluding his service as OC Central Command two
months ago, Gadi Shamni wrote a document for his superiors in the
IDF General Staff. It was an internal conclusion letter, but it
intentionally deviated towards the political echelon. He wrote: One
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cannot expect the OC Central Command to seriously deal with
evacuation of outpost and illegal settlements, if these decisions
are not backed by significant support in manpower, inspectors, heavy
machinery for demolition, police, transport vehicles and so forth.
As long as the political echelon's decisions are not supported by
the appropriate resources, this is essentially a wink to the
This is not a precise quote, but it does reflect the spirit of
things. The document was passed on to Shamni's replacement, Avi
Mizrahi, and subsequently became the Central Command's guidebook.
Now everyone is waiting to see if this too is an Israeli-style
bluff. Will this freeze melt away and turn into a temporary
moratorium, in lip service only, at the end of which ministers and
settlers embrace each other warmly, and those remaining bruised and
battered on the field licking their wounds will again be the
inspectors, the policemen and the Civil Administration officials -
and the soldiers?
The new OC Central Command, Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi has not yet had
time to lose his innocence. He has not yet served as a military
secretary-not for the defense minister and not for the prime
minister. Mizrahi was and still is a tank man. At the end of the
weekend he issued executive orders to freeze construction in the
West Bank, which did not fall - in either their extensiveness or
detail - from a plan to occupy the Syrian capital.
On Friday "intelligence before operation" footage was taken by Ofek
aircraft. Aerial photos were distributed to the various brigades,
the Civil Administration prepared its work plan, the regional
brigades were to execute a series of orders and to approve the
plans, determine the traffic movement, and pass on
event-and-response data.
The earlier aerial photos are the basis. What was legally built up
until the photo taken, will be allowed. All construction from the
moment the photo was taken - is to be forbidden.
However, already that Friday, the IDF received a problematic signal.
Minister Gilad Erdan explained to all those concerned that the
freeze order issued by the cabinet was legally flawed and that it
should therefore not be implemented. The military leadership sprung
as though bitten by a snake: "What is this thing? On the one hand
the government tasks us with a mission, and on the other hand, a
government minister, of the Likud, is telling us that it is illegal.
How can we send troops to a mission this way?" asked a senior
officer in anger.
Barak and Netanyahu extinguished this small fire with internal
conversations. On Tuesday the defense minister arrived at the
Central Command with one mission only: promise the OC and the top
command there that there would be no winks. That he was serious.
What remains pending is how to legally handle the council chairmen
who tore up construction freeze orders - before all in sundry and
video cameras - and one council chairman who locked the settlement's
gates, and forced the police to forcefully enter. Barak ordered that
complaints be filed against them and that legal proceedings begin.
At the same time he ordered the IDF: the settlements whose leaders
show resistance to security forces activity are to receive a cold
shoulder in return.
Is the defense minister truly prepared to change the historical
rules of the game in West Bank? Will "seriousness fees" truly be
paid? What will be done, for example, to Beit Aryeh's security
coordinator, who blocked the entry of inspectors with his military
vehicle, which is financed by the IDF? So far the army has
confiscated his vehicle. And what will come next? Will he be
employed in the future?
On the surface, it appears that Barak is serious. At the beginning
of the week, for example, he held discussions about financial
support given by various unnamed organizations to soldiers who
demonstrate against settlement evacuation. In the end he ordered the
State Attorney's Office to examine the possibility of filing
lawsuits against these organizations for sedition. The State
Attorney's Office was hesitant.
They had their own legal reservations. But on the weekend, after
having examined the evidence, they began legal proceedings against
these foundations. If this works, the defense minister is truly
establishing new rules for the game.
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