US embassy cable - 95TELAVIV16445

HAMAS/PA AGREEMENT: ON THE BRINK AGAIN

Identifier: 95TELAVIV16445
Wikileaks: View 95TELAVIV16445 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Tel Aviv
Created: 1995-10-13 16:31:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL PTER PGOV KPAL KWBG IS
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 131631Z OCT 95
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1512
INFO AMEMBASSY AMMAN 
AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 
AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 
AMEMBASSY CAIRO 
AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS 
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 016445 
 
 
DEPT FOR SMEC AND NEA/IAI 
 
E.O.  12356:  DECL:  OADR 
TAGS:  PREL, PTER, PGOV, KPAL, KWBG, IS 
SUBJECT:  HAMAS/PA AGREEMENT: ON THE BRINK AGAIN 
 
REF:  (A) TEL AVIV 15788, (B) TEL AVIV 10167 
 
1.  CONFIDENTIAL ENTIRE TEXT.  OADR BASED ON 
INFORMATION FROM FOREIGN GOVERNMENT SOURCES. 
 
 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
2.  AN AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY 
(PA) AND HAMAS APPEARS IMMINENT.  REPORTEDLY, AFTER 
A LOCAL HAMAS DELEGATION MET WITH OUTSIDE LEADERS, 
CONSENSUS WAS REACHED ON THE ORGANIZATION'S NEED TO 
MOVE FROM ARMED OPPOSITION TO ISRAEL, TO POLITICAL 
OPPOSITION IN ORDER TO AVOID BECOMING IRRELEVANT. 
HAMAS LOST SUPPORT IN GAZA AFTER THE ISRAELIS AND 
THE PA SUCCEEDED IN CEMENTING THE LINK BETWEEN HAMAS 
MILITARY ACTIONS AND THE CLOSURE ON GAZA AND OTHER 
ECONOMIC HARDSHIPS.  CONSEQUENTLY, THE NUMBER OF 
HAMAS MEMBERS WHO BELIEVE THAT POLITICAL 
PARTICIPATION IS THE ONLY WAY FOR HAMAS TO REGAIN 
POPULAR SUPPORT AND TAKE ITS RIGHTFUL PLACE IN 
PALESTINIAN PUBLIC LIFE INCREASED.  THESE MODERATES, 
HOWEVER, FACE HAMAS RADICALS INSIDE GAZA AS WELL AS 
ABROAD, WHO REMAIN COMMITTED TO CONTINUING ARMED 
STRUGGLE AGAINST ISRAEL AND WHO HAVE TRIED TO CAST 
SUSPICION ON THOSE WHO WANT TO TRY OTHER METHODS. 
EVEN WHEN THE ORGANIZATION TAKES A FORMAL DECISION 
TO ABJURE MILITARY OPERATIONS, THE POSSIBILITY OF 
ROGUE OPERATIONS REMAINS HIGH. 
 
 
GAZANS WELCOME RESPITE FROM ATTACKS 
----------------------------------- 
 
3.  PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY (PA) OFFICIALS AND PRIVATE 
GAZANS AGREE THAT PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR HAMAS MILITARY 
ACTIONS HAS DECREASED DRAMATICALLY IN RECENT MONTHS 
(REF A).  UNTIL THE GOI IMPOSED THE LATEST CLOSURE 
(WHICH HAS ALREADY LASTED MORE THAN A MONTH) GAZANS 
HAD BECOME USED TO A MEASURE OF NORMALCY IN THEIR 
DAILY LIVES AND A CHANCE TO ENJOY SOME OF THE 
VISIBLE IMPROVEMENTS IN GAZA.  THESE INCLUDED THE 
ABILITY OF THOSE WITH PERMITS TO GO TO THEIR JOBS IN 
ISRAEL.  GAZANS HAVE ALSO WELCOMED THE SIGNS OF 
INCREASED ECONOMIC ACTIVITY IN GAZA.  INCREASED 
CONSTRUCTION IS THE MOST FREQUENT EXAMPLE.  WHILE 
UNSURE WHO WILL LIVE IN ALL THE BUILDINGS GOING UP, 
GAZANS SEE THEM AS PROOF THAT PEOPLE WITH MONEY HAVE 
FAITH IN THE AREA'S FUTURE. 
 
 
PA CAPITALIZED ON GOI PENALTIES 
------------------------------- 
 
4.  PALESTINIANS ARE UNANIMOUS IN THEIR BELIEF THAT 
CLOSURES IN RESPONSE TO TERRORIST ATTACKS ARE A FORM 
OF COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT.  AT THE SAME TIME, THEY 
GRUDGINGLY AGREE THAT THEY WORKED.  ATTACKS STOPPED 
DURING CLOSURES, AND THE PUBLIC SUFFERING FROM THE 
ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES, LED MANY TO RESENT THE 
ATTACKS THAT BROUGHT THE CLOSURES.  PA OFFICIALS AND 
GAZANS WITH CLOSE CONTACTS TO HAMAS OFFICIALS 
BELIEVE THAT ARAFAT WAS ABLE TO CONVINCE GAZANS THAT 
HAMAS IS NOT ONLY CAUSING ECONOMIC HARDSHIPS ON 
PALESTINIANS THROUGH ITS MILITARY ACTIONS, BUT HAS 
ALSO FAILED--UNLIKE THE PA--IN THE PRIMARY 
PALESTINIAN GOAL OF REGAINING TERRITORY FROM ISRAEL. 
ALTHOUGH MOST GAZANS EXPECTED A LENGTHY CLOSURE 
AROUND THE JEWISH HOLIDAYS, THE GOI PUBLIC 
ANNOUNCEMENT, THAT THE CURRENT CLOSURE (SCHEDULED TO 
BE LIFTED OCTOBER 17) IS IN RESPONSE TO SPECIFIC 
THREATS FROM RADICAL GROUPS, INCLUDING HAMAS, KEEPS 
THE LINKAGE FRONT AND CENTER. 
 
 
WHAT HAMAS WANTED FROM THE PA 
----------------------------- 
 
5.  HAMAS MEMBERS HAVE ACKNOWLEDGED THAT THEIR 
STANDING AMONG GAZANS HAS FALLEN.  THAT, ALONG WITH 
THE PA'S DEMONSTRATED READINESS TO ENGAGE THEIR 
MILITARY WING, ARREST AND ILL-TREAT THEIR MEMBERS 
(INCLUDING THEIR POLITICAL SPOKESMEN), PRESSURE 
THEIR SOCIAL ORGANIZATIONS, AND SHUT DOWN THEIR 
PUBLICATIONS, LED THEM TO NEGOTIATIONS.  HAMAS HOPED 
TO GAIN FACE-SAVING MEASURES IN EXCHANGE FOR HALTING 
ALL MILITARY OPERATIONS.  ACCORDING TO PA OFFI 
CIALS, THESE INCLUDED THE RELEASE OF ALL OF THEIR MEMBERS 
IN DETENTION (REPORTEDLY, EVEN THOSE SENTENCED BY 
THE SECURITY COURT); A GUARANTEE OF MID-LEVEL 
POSITIONS IN THE PA; A CERTAIN NUMBER OF SEATS AFTER 
PALESTINIAN GENERAL ELECTIONS; AND PUBLIC ACCEPTANCE 
OF RESPONSIBILITY  FOR THE BLOODY CLASH IN 1994 
WHICH LEFT 16 PALESTINIANS DEAD. 
 
 
OSLO II DRASTICALLY ALTERED THE BALANCE OF POWER 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
 
6.  AS THE OSLO II NEGOTIATIONS GOT UNDERWAY, 
PRESSURE ON HAMAS TO COME TO AN AGREEMENT WITH THE 
PA MOUNTED.  WHILE PA OFFICIALS (INCLUDING PA 
SECRETARY GENERAL TAYYIB ABDURRAHIM, JUSTICE 
MINISTER FREIH ABU MIDDEIN AND PALESTINIAN POLICE 
COMMANDER NASIR YUSIF) ALL MAINTAINED THAT HAMAS WAS 
READY TO COME TO CLOSURE WITH THE PA, PROVIDED IT 
DID NOT HAVE TO PUBLICLY SWEAR OFF ALL MILITARY 
ACTIONS AGAINST ISRAELIS AND WAS PROMISED A REAL 
VOICE IN THE AUTHORITY, ARAFAT WITHHELD AGREEMENT ON 
A DRAFT ACCORD THAT HAD BEEN DEVELOPED.  YUSIF TOLD 
US OCTOBER 12 THAT ARAFAT HAD REFUSED TO SIGN IN THE 
BELIEF THAT HE COULD GET WHAT HE NEEDED FROM HAMAS 
WITHOUT MEETING MOST OF THEIR DEMANDS.  YUSIF 
BELIEVED THAT SUBSEQUENT EVENTS HAVE PROVED ARAFAT 
RIGHT. 
 
 
PA AND HAMAS REPORTEDLY NOW ON THE BRINK OF 
ANNOUNCING AGREEMENT 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
7.  THE CONCLUSION OF THE OSLO II AGREEMENT 
APPARENTLY BOLSTERED THE MODERATES IN HAMAS AND A 
TEAM OF HAMAS SUPPORTERS WAS DISPATCHED TO KHARTOUM 
TO GAIN CONCURRENCE FROM HAMAS LEADERS ABROAD.  ABU 
MIDDEIN TOLD US LATE OCTOBER 12 THAT THE TEAM HAD 
BEEN SUCCESSFUL.  SIMILARLY, GAZA REUTERS CHIEF, 
TAHER SHRITEH, TOLD US OCTOBER 13 THAT A SENIOR PA 
OFFICIAL HAD TOLD HIM THAT THE HAMAS DELEGATION HAD 
RETURNED FROM SUDAN WITH A NEW DRAFT AGREEMENT, AND 
THAT AFTER A MIDNIGHT MEETING WITH PA OFFICIALS, 
BOTH SIDES WERE WILLING TO SIGN IT.  SHRITEH SAID 
BOTH SIDES WERE UNWILLING TO TALK ABOUT THE DETAILS 
NOW, BUT HE EXPECTED AN ANNOUNCEMENT, IF NOT TODAY, 
WITHIN THE NEXT FEW DAYS. 
 
8.  IN THIS REGARD, IN PUBLIC REMARKS OCTOBER 13, 
HAMAS LEADER MAHMOUD ZAHAR ALLUDED TO HAMAS' (AND 
OTHER PARTIES) OBJECTIONS TO THE DRAFT PARTIES LAW 
(SEPTEL), HE SAID "WE HAVE NO OBJECTION TO 
PARTICIPATE IN ANY ELECTION, BUT NOW WE CANNOT SPEAK 
ABOUT ELECTIONS EXCEPT AFTER KNOWING WHAT ARE THE 
DETAILS OF SUCH ELECTION."  RESPONDING TO A QUESTION 
ABOUT WHETHER HAMAS WOULD PARTICIPATE IN A 
GOVERNMENT WITH THE PA, ZAHAR REPLIED, "THIS 
ACTUALLY WILL DEPEND ON THE RESULT OF THE ELECTION. 
SO NO OBJECTION ACTUALLY TO RULE EVERYTHING IN THE 
PROCESS OF RECONSTRUCTION."  ASKED WHETHER HAMAS 
TERRORISM WOULD END AT SOME STAGE, ZAHAR SAID "WE 
HOPE SO...." 
 
COMMENT 
------- 

9.  ZAHAR'S REMARKS ARE NOTEWORTHY COMING IN THE 
DIRECT WAKE OF THE HAMAS DELEGATION'S RETURN FROM 
SUDAN.  HAMAS' AGREEMENT TO REFRAIN FROM MILITARY 
OPERATIONS WILL BE KEY TO IMPLEMENTING OSLO II.  IT 
IS WORTH REMEMBERING HOWEVER, THAT IN ADDITION TO 
ROGUE IZZADIN AL QASSAM CELLS, ELEMENTS IN 
PALESTINIAN ISLAMIC JIHAD REMAIN COMMITTED TO ARMED 
STRUGGLE AGAINST ISRAEL.  OPERATIONS LIKE THE 
JANUARY ATTACK AT BET LID MAKE CLEAR THAT EVEN WITH 
HAMAS FORMALLY ON BOARD, OTHERS COULD PUT A SPANNER 
IN THE WORKS OF OSLO II IMPLEMENTATION. 
 
INDYK 

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