US embassy cable - 01TELAVIV4047

HAMAS: PICKING UP THE PIECES, GAINING BY DEFAULT

Identifier: 01TELAVIV4047
Wikileaks: View 01TELAVIV4047 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Tel Aviv
Created: 2001-07-27 11:41:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL PTER KWBG KPAL IS GZ
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 271141Z JUL 01
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8308
INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 004047 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/27/01 
TAGS: PREL, PTER, KWBG, KPAL, IS, GZ 
SUBJECT: HAMAS: PICKING UP THE PIECES, GAINING BY 
DEFAULT 
 
CLASSIFIED BY DCM PAUL SIMONS, PER 1.5(B) AND (D). 
 
THIS CABLE WAS CLEARED WITH CONGEN JERUSALEM. 
 
1.  (C) SUMMARY: GAZA LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL MEMBER AND 
LONG-TIME HAMAS WATCHER ZIAD ABU AMR TOLD POLOFF JULY 24 
THAT HAMAS' INFLUENCE "HAS NEVER BEEN STRONGER" IN THE 
OCCUPIED TERRITORIES.  IN ABU AMR'S VIEW, DEVELOPMENTS 
ARE "LENDING CREDIBILITY TO THEIR IDEAS AND DISCOURSE." 
HAMAS' STATURE HAS ALSO BEEN AIDED BY ITS PROMINENT 
INTIFADAH ROLE AND BY PM SHARON'S EFFORTS TO DELEGITIMIZE 
ARAFAT AND THE PA.   ABU AMR HAD THE IMPRESSION THAT 
HAMAS WAS "IN NO HURRY TO DO ANYTHING," GIVEN THE 
BENEFITS THEY'RE REAPING FROM THE CURRENT SITUATION. ABU 
AMR DETAILED PA EFFORTS TO PERSUADE, CAJOLE, AND 
(IMPLICITLY) THREATEN HAMAS IN ORDER TO GET THEM TO STOP 
THE BOMBINGS. ABU AMR UNDERLINED THAT THE POST- 
DOLPHINARIUM 'STAND DOWN' WAS TACTICAL FOR HAMAS.  NEW 
VARIABLES, SUCH AS REGIONAL DEVELOPMENTS, COULD CHANGE 
THE GROUP'S CALCULATIONS.  END SUMMARY. 
 
HAMAS GETTING STRONGER BY THE DAY 
--------------------------------- 
 
2.  (C) GAZA LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL MEMBER AND LONG-TIME 
HAMAS WATCHER ZIAD ABU AMR TOLD POLOFF JULY 24 THAT 
HAMAS' INFLUENCE "HAS NEVER BEEN STRONGER" IN THE 
OCCUPIED TERRITORIES.  IN HIS VIEW, THE GROUP IS 
"BENEFITING BY DEFAULT."  THE CURRENT SITUATION ALLOWS 
THEM TO POINT TO WHAT SHARON IS DOING TO THE PEACE 
PROCESS AND TO MAKE THE POINT THAT "AFTER SEVEN YEARS OF 
PROTECTING ISRAEL'S SECURITY INTERESTS, LOOK WHAT THEY 
ARE DOING TO THE PEACE PROCESS."  IN ABU AMR'S VIEW, 
DEVELOPMENTS ARE "LENDING CREDIBILITY TO THEIR IDEAS AND 
DISCOURSE."   THE "NATIONAL UNITY ATMOSPHERE" IN ISRAEL 
HAS ALSO HELPED HAMAS, HE NOTED, TO MAKE THE POINT THAT 
WITH PEACE NEGOTIATIONS, A FINAL STATUS DEAL, AND AN 
INDEPENDENT PALESTINIAN STATE FURTHER OUT OF REACH, 
HAMAS' REJECTIONIST IDEAS AND ANALYSIS SEEM MORE CREDIBLE 
TO MANY DISILLUSIONED, PESSIMISTIC PALESTINIANS.  SHARON 
IS PLAYING INTO HAMAS'S HANDS BY UNDERMINING AND 
DELIGITIMIZING ARAFAT AND THE PA.  HAMAS' STATURE HAS 
ALSO BEEN AIDED BY ITS PROMINENT INTIFADAH ROLE.  IT HAS 
PARTICIPATED IN THE VIOLENT RESISTANCE AIMED AT ENDING 
THE OCCUPATION, MOUNTED MASS PUBLIC DEMONSTRATIONS, AND 
STEPPED UP ITS EXTENSIVE SOCIAL WELFARE NETWORK, SAID ABU 
AMR. 
 
3.  (C) ABU AMR HAD THE IMPRESSION THAT HAMAS WAS "IN NO 
HURRY TO DO ANYTHING," GIVEN THE BENEFITS THEY'RE REAPING 
FROM THE CURRENT SITUATION, SAID ABU AMR.  HE ALSO MADE 
THE POINT THAT PALESTINIANS, INCLUDING HAMAS, WERE STILL 
CONFRONTED BY THE SHARON THREAT ISSUED AFTER THE 
DOLPHINARIUM TERROR ATTACK.  AS A RESULT OF THAT 
SITUATION, HAMAS ALSO HAD TO FACTOR IN THE PA'S STRONG 
WARNINGS THAT "FOOLISH ACTS" WOULD NOT BE TOLERATED AND 
COULD FORCE THE PA TO MOVE AGAINST IT. 
 
PA "PERSUADING" HAMAS TO AVOID "FOOLISH ACTS" 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
4.  (C) ABU AMR DETAILED PA EFFORTS TO PERSUADE, CAJOLE, 
AND (IMPLICITLY) THREATEN HAMAS IN ORDER TO GET THEM TO 
STOP THE BOMBINGS.  AMONG OTHERS, HE MET WITH HAMAS 
SPIRITUAL LEADER SHEIKH YASSIN AND MADE THE FOLLOWING 
POINTS: 
 
-- IF SHARON DECIDES ON A "DECISIVE BLOW," NO ONE WILL BE 
EXCLUDED," INCLUDING HAMAS; 
 
--  HAMAS HAS A LONG-TERM "ISLAMIC STATE PROJECT, SO WHY 
JEOPARDIZE IT WITH SHORT-TERM "FOOLISH ACTS;" 
 
-- YOU DON'T NEED ANY MORE OF THESE BOMBINGS.  YOU HAVE 
MADE YOUR POINT.  THEY ARE TACTICAL, NOT STRATEGIC.  IF 
THEY WERE STRATEGIC, YOU WOULD DO THEM EVERY DAY.  MORE 
NOW WOULD NOT SERVE ANY PURPOSE; AND 
 
-- WHY PUSH YOUR LUCK WITH THE PA?  IF YOU MISCALCULATE, 
YOU COULD BE FORCED INTO A CONFRONTATION YOU PROBABLY 
COULD NOT WIN. 
 
5.  (C) ABU AMR TOLD POLOFF HE HAD THE SENSE THAT HAMAS 
LEADERS WERE PERSUADED BY HIS ARGUMENTS (OTHERS IN PA 
ALSO WERE REPORTEDLY INVOLVED), FOR NOW AT LEAST.  (NOTE: 
ABU AMR MADE CLEAR HE DID NOT SYMPATHIZE WITH HAMAS'S 
TACTICS OR GOALS, WITH REGARD TO PEACE PROCESS OR 
BUILDING AN ISLAMIC STATE.  END NOTE.)  WHEN ASKED THE 
BINYAMINA BOMBING WHICH TOOK PLACE AFTER THE TENET CEASE- 
FIRE AND THESE POST-DOLPHINARIUM ATTACKS, HE POINTED OUT 
THE THAT ATTACK APPEARED TO BE A PIJ OPERATION, A GROUP 
OVER WHICH THE PA HAS LESS CONTROL (AND WORSE RELATIONS 
THAN WITH HAMAS).  OTHER PLAYERS, POSSIBLY WITH AN ANTI- 
PA AGENDA, INCLUDING IRAN AND HIZBALLAH, HAD MORE 
INFLUENCE. 
 
6.  (C) THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME ABU AMR HAS ACTED AS 
AN INTERMEDIARY BETWEEN THE PA AND HAMAS. HE WAS ALSO 
PART OF A MEDIATION EFFORT IN THE SPRING TO PREVENT 
DIVERGENT POLITICAL INTERESTS OF THE TWO GROUPS FROM 
LEADING TO OPEN CONFLICT.  AS A PART OF THESE EFFORTS, 
ABU AMR PARTICIPATED IN "DISCUSSIONS" WITH HAMAS AND PA 
LEADERS TO EFFECT THE RELEASE OF HAMAS POLITICAL LEADER 
ABDEL-AZIZ AL-RANTISSI, WHOM THE PA HAD JAILED.  (NOTE: 
AL-RANTISSI WAS JAILED FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD FROM LAST 
SUMMER UNTIL FEBRUARY 2001, AND THEN RE-IMPRISONED FOR A 
FEW WEEKS IN APRIL FOR PUBLIC CRITICISM OF THE PA, 
CALLING ITS ACCEPTANCE OF THE JORDAN-EGYPT INITIATIVE 
"TREACHERY."  ABU AMR IS APPARENTLY REFERRING TO THE MOST 
RECENT RELEASE.  END NOTE) 
 
CURRENT STAND-DOWN TACTICAL; CALCULATIONS COULD CHANGE 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
 
7.  (C) ABU AMR UNDERLINED THAT THE POST-DOLPHINARIUM 
'STAND DOWN' WAS ALSO TACTICAL FOR HAMAS.  NEW VARIABLES 
COULD CHANGE HAMAS' CALCULATIONS.  AMONG SUCH VARIABLES 
COULD BE CHANGES IN THE REGIONAL SITUATION.  HAMAS 
LEADERS OUTSIDE THE TERRITORIES OR PLAYERS LIKE IRAN OR 
EVEN SYRIA MIGHT EXERT PRESSURE THAT COULD CHANGE THE 
CALCULUS.  TO ILLUSTRATE, ABU AMR DEVELOPED A POSSIBLE 
SCENARIO (AMONG MANY OTHERS):  PERHAPS FOR SOME REASON 
ISRAEL "HIT" SYRIA.  SYRIA IS TOO WEAK MILITARILY TO HIT 
BACK DIRECTLY SO IT WOULD USE A PROXY.  HIZBALLAH COULD 
BE TIED DIRECTLY TO SYRIA, BUT HAMAS COULD POSSIBLY BE 
USED TO PROVIDE A 'NO FINGERPRINTS' PAYBACK. 
 
8.  (C) ABU AMR ALSO ASKED RHETORICALLY HOW LONG 
PALESTINIANS IN GENERAL WOULD BE "PERMANENTLY 
BLACKMAILED" BY SHARON'S THREAT TO DEAL A "DECISIVE 
BLOW," NOTING THAT EVENTUALLY THE POWER OF THE THREAT 
WOULD WEAKEN.  SUCH WEAKENING COULD ALSO BLEND IN WITH 
THE MIX OF VARIABLES THAT WOULD AFFECT HAMAS' FUTURE 
POLITICAL CALCULATIONS, SAID ABU AMR. 
 
9. (C) COMMENT:  ONE OF THE STRONGEST FACTORS WHICH COULD 
PUSH HAMAS TO ACT IS A REVENGE MOTIVE, A DESIRE TO 
RETALIATE FOR ISRAELI ASSASSINATIONS OF ITS ACTIVISTS. 
IN THE PAST SUCH MOTIVATIONS HAVE SOMETIMES PUSHED THE 
HAMAS MILITARY WING, IGNORING OTHER POLITICAL 
CALCULATIONS.  IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THE CONVERSATION 
WITH ABU AMR TOOK PLACE BEFORE THE ISRAELI ASSASSINATION 
OF NABLUS-BASED HAMAS ACTIVIST SALAH DARWARZE ON JULY 25. 
ABU AMR IS AN INFLUENTIAL PLC MEMBER WHO HAS WRITTEN ON 
HAMAS AND PIJ, FOLLOWS THEIR POLITICS, AND MAINTAINS GOOD 
RELATIONS WITH HAMAS LEADERS.  IN EARLIER CONVERSATIONS 
(PRE- AND EARLY-INTIFADAH) HE WAS MUCH MORE DISMISSIVE OF 
THEIR POLITICAL STATUS IN THE TERRITORIES.  END COMMENT. 
 
KURTZER 

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