US embassy cable - 95TELAVIV10344

HAMAS ARRESTS: THE POLITICS OF PRESSURE

Identifier: 95TELAVIV10344
Wikileaks: View 95TELAVIV10344 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Tel Aviv
Created: 1995-06-28 09:25:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL KWBG KPAL IS
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
P 280925Z JUN 95
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9036
INFO AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 010344 
 
 
E.O.  12356:  DECL:  OADR 
TAGS:  PREL, KWBG, KPAL, IS 
SUBJECT:  HAMAS ARRESTS:  THE POLITICS OF PRESSURE 
 
1.  SUMMARY:  PALESTINIAN MILITARY LEADERS DESCRIBED 
THE JUNE 26 ARREST OF 40 HAMAS ACTIVISTS AS A 
NECESSARY STEP TO FORCE HAMAS TO CEASE VIOLENT 
ACTIVITIES IN GAZA AND ENTER THE POLITICAL PROCESS. 
THE ARRESTS, AUTHORIZED BY PLO CHAIRMAN ARAFAT AT A 
LATE NIGHT JUNE 25 "SECURITY COUNCIL" MEETING, WERE 
IN REACTION TO HAMAS LEAFLETS CLAIMING 
RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE JUNE 25 DONKEY CART SUICIDE 
BOMBING (WHICH SLIGHTLY GRAZED THREE ISRAELI 
SOLDIERS).  CHARGES WILL NOT BE BROUGHT AGAINST MOST 
OF THOSE DETAINED, ACCORDING TO OUR SOURCES, AND 
MOST WILL BE RELEASED "WITHIN THE NEXT 48 HOURS." 
END SUMMARY. 
 
2.  ON JUNE 27, EMBOFF MET SEPARATELY WITH CHIEF OF 
PALESTINIAN SECURITY FORCES NASSER YUSIF AND 
CIVILIAN POLICE CHIEF GHAZI JABALI TO DISCUSS THE 
ARRESTS OF HAMAS ACTIVITIES EARLY ON JUNE 26.  WHILE 
THEIR VIEWS SOMETIMES DIVERGE WIDELY, IN THIS 
INSTANCE THEIR COMMENTS WERE SIMILAR:  IN PLO 
CHAIRMAN ARAFAT'S EYES,  HAMAS' CLAIM OF 
RESPONSIBILITY (DISAVOWED LATER IN A SECOND LEAFLET) 
FOR THE JUNE 26 DONKEY CART SUICIDE BOMBER NEAR KHAN 
YUNIS WAS PROOF OF THE VIOLATION OF THE UNWRITTEN 
UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN THE PA AND HAMAS TO REFRAIN 
FROM VIOLENT ACTS WITHIN GAZA.  ARAFAT FELT HE HAD 
TO TAKE A STAND.  IN A "SECURITY COUNCIL" MEETING 
LATE JUNE 25, ARAFAT ISSUED THE ORDER TO ARREST 40 
MEMBERS OF HAMAS, WHICH WAS CARRIED OUT BY ALL 
BRANCHES OF THE PALESTINIAN ARMED FORCES EARLY JUNE 
26. 
 
PA SECURITY CHIEF ON HAMAS ARREST 
--------------------------------- 
3.  OF THE 40 ARRESTED, YUSIF DESCRIBED 18 OF THEM 
AS THE BULK OF THE GAZA-BASED POLITICAL LEADERSHIP 
OF HAMAS (INCLUDING AHMED BAHER, MAHMOUD ZAHAR, AND 
MUHSEN ABU EITA);  THE REST WERE VARIOUS ACTIVISTS 
ON WHAT SOUNDS LIKE A LIST OF "USUAL SUSPECTS." 
BOTH SOURCES TOLD US THAT ARAFAT PERSONALLY CHOSE TO 
CONCENTRATE ON THE POLITICAL RATHER THAN MILITARY 
LEADERSHIP OF HAMAS, ALTHOUGH YUSIF SAID THAT HE HAD 
COUNSELED ARAFAT TO ARREST THE MILITARY LEADERS 
INSTEAD.  BOTH JABALI AND YUSIF BELIEVE THAT HAMAS 
CARRIED OUT THE DONKEY CART INCIDENT AND THAT THE 
BELATED DENIALS WERE MERELY IN REACTION TO THE 
PRESSURE OF THE ARRESTS. 
 
POLICE CHIEF VIEWS 
------------------ 
4.  JABALI SAID THAT THE ARRESTS WERE A "POLITICAL" 
STEP.  THE ATTORNEY GENERAL AND OTHER CIVILIAN 
AUTHORITIES HAD NOT BEEN INVOLVED.  NO CHARGES HAD 
BEEN BROUGHT AGAINST THE DETAINEES.  HE PREDICTED 
THAT MOST -- BUT NOT ALL -- WOULD BE RELEASED WITHIN 
48 HOURS, A VIEW SECONDED BY YUSIF.  JABALI 
DISMISSED THE RUMORS OF IRREGULAR TREATMENT OF THE 
HAMAS ACTIVISTS IN HIS CUSTODY, SAYING THAT HIS 
POLICE HAD MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT THAN 
"SHAVING THE BEARD OF SHEIKH AHMED" (BAHER).  "BUT I 
CAN'T SPEAK FOR THOSE BEING DETAINED BY THE SECRET 
POLICE," HE ADDED. 
 
POLITICAL IMPACT OF ARAFAT'S STEP 
--------------------------------- 
5.  YUSIF CRITICIZED HOW THE ARRESTS WERE MADE, 
SAYING THAT LEGAL WARRANTS COULD HAVE BEEN ISSUED 
AND CHARGES BROUGHT, BUT HE AGREED WITH JABALI THAT 
THE ARRESTS THEMSELVES WERE A NECESSARY STEP.  BOTH 
PREDICTED THAT BECAUSE OF THE PRESSURE HAMAS WOULD 
BE MORE FLEXIBLE IN ONGOING NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE 
PA.  BOTH NOTED THAT HAMAS HAD NOT CUT OFF TALKS IN 
RESPONSE TO THE ARRESTS. 
 
6.  RESPONDING TO EMBOFF'S QUESTIONS, JABALI 
COMMENTED THAT HE HAD TO BE PREPARED FOR A POSSIBLE 
BACKLASH FROM HAMAS, BUT HE EXPECTED THAT THE IMPACT 
OF THE ARRESTS WOULD MOSTLY BE POSITIVE, RATHER THAN 
NEGATIVE.  JABALI AND YUSIF SAID THAT THE TIMING HAD 
NOTHING TO DO WITH THE JULY 1 "DEADLINE" FOR 
REDEPLOYMENT NEGOTIATIONS, AND BOTH PREDICTED THAT 
GAZA WOULD REMAIN CALM IF THAT "DEADLINE" WERE 
MISSED, SINCE THE PA IS IN FIRM CONTROL OF THE 
SECURITY SITUATION.  JABALI EXPESSED MORE CONCERN 
ABOUT WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN IN THE WEST BANK, WHERE 
HAMAS ACTIVITISTS ARE UNDER LESS PA CONTROL AND 
PRESSURE. 
 
A DISSENTING VIEW 
----------------- 
7.  SAMIR SIKSEK, YUSIF'S DEPUTY, EARLIER OFFERED AN 
INTERPRETATION OF THE ARRESTS WHICH DIVERGED GREATLY 
FROM THAT OF HIS BOSS AND OF JABALI.  IN HIS VIEW, 
ARAFAT HOPED TO GOAD HAMAS INTO A VIOLENT REACTION 
TO PROVIDE AN EXCUSE FOR THE ISRAELIS TO SLOW 
NEGOTIATIONS.  THAT WAY, ACCORDING TO SIKSEK, IF 
WHAT THE PALESTINIANS CONSIDER THE "DEADLINE" OF 
JULY 1 IS MISSED, ARAFAT COULD BLAME HAMAS AND 
PRESERVE HIS OWN POPULARITY.  SIKSEK ARGUED THAT THE 
ARRESTS WERE ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF ARAFAT'S ARBITRARY 
AND AUTOCRATIC RULE WHICH SHOULD CONCERN THE UNITED 
STATES, IF THE USG IS STILL PROMOTING PALESTINIAN 
DEMOCRACY.  (COMMENT:  IT IS WORTH NOTING THAT 
SIKSEK RARELY MISSES AN OPPORTUNITY TO CRITICIZE 
ARAFAT AMD THAT HE DID NOT EXPRESS THESE VIEWS IN 
FRONT OF YUSIF.  END COMMENT.) 

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