Monday, December 20, 2010

WikiLeaks cable: US-Israel relations weathered 'rocky start' but has improved since

PM Netanayhu's senior adviser - Director for Policy Planning Ron Dermer confirmed that the US-Israeli relationship had weathered a "rocky start" following the transition to new administrations in both countries during a December 14, 2009 meeting with Senate staff members (Michael Kuiken, Senate Armed Services Committee, and Perry Cammack, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations), the latest US government cable released by WikiLeaks revealed Sunday.

Dermer expressed frustration with the peace process, noting that Israel has taken steps in the effort to convince Abbas to return to the negotiating table to no avail. Dermer said PM Netanyahu's patience has "run out," and that the Israel will make no more concessions in that regard -- it is time for Abu Mazen to "be a leader."

U.S.-Israeli Relations

"Dermer described U.S.-Israeli relations as good and improving, but acknowledged that the relationship between the new Obama and Netanyahu administrations got off to a "rough, rocky start." He noted that changes in administrations in both countries at nearly the same time were "relatively rare" -- both entered office and started formulating policy based on electoral mandates representing change from the previous administrations. Dermer said that the United States and Israel agree on so many things; when an issue of disagreement arises, the media tends to disproportionally accentuate the disagreement -- as was the case earlier in the year on settlements.

"Since this disagreement, Dermer said relations between the two administrations have improved daily, and were "only getting stronger." He noted greater U.S.-Israeli cooperation and coordination, especially with regard to confronting Iran and its attempts to acquire nuclear weapons. Dermer said that President Obama does not get enough credit in Israel for weighing in helpfully on several issues affecting Israel's security, such as the Goldstone Report, problems in the
Turkey-Israel relations, and the recent EU Council statement on East Jerusalem. He also cited the successful Juniper Cobra joint missile defense exercise hosted by Israel in November 2009.

Peace Process

"Dermer noted that the GOI has taken a number of steps in the effort to jump-start the peace process with the Palestinians, but to no avail -- as a result, Netanyahu's patience has "run out," he said. Dermer noted progress on West Bank checkpoints and outpost evacuations, Netanyahu's acceptance of the two-state solution during his June 2009 Bar Ilan speech, allowing "violent" individuals into the West Bank to attend the Fatah party congress, and the recent settlement moratorium. He claimed that 70 percent of the Israeli public opposes the moratorium, this was a difficult decision for Netanyahu, but one he decided to make to restart negotiations.

"Dermer lamented the lack of a partner on the Palestinian side to pursue negotiations. He pointed to an interview Abu Mazen gave to The Washington Post's Jackson Diehl six months ago in which Abu Mazen implied he would "sit back and wait" for the United States to deliver Israel to the negotiating table. Dermer accused Abu Mazen of trying to internationalize the conflict, which he described as a "big mistake." The GOI understands Abu Mazen's political constraints and lack of support from Arab regional partners -- but at the end of the day, Abu Mazen must "be a leader" .

"Dermer said that while Netanyahu is ready to engage at any time, the Israeli public is skeptical regarding the benefits of returning to negotiations with the Palestinians. He noted that it would be "extremely difficult" for Netanyahu to approach the Cabinet at this point regarding negotiations when all the GOI has received in return for its efforts was a "slap-down from the international community" following the Goldstone Report.

'Dermer said Netanyahu does not believe Abu Mazen is as weak as he claims, and that Abu Mazen has the potential to "rise to the occasion" in negotiating peace. However, he said Abu Mazen must make some sort of gesture to return to the table and "prepare his people" for the difficult decisions necessary for peace. Seemingly simple steps such as employing new language or condemning violence and terrorism -- something the GOI believes Abu Mazen has not done since 2003 -- would be very appreciated, Dermer said.