BERRI SAYS ISRAEL WON'T WIN



72513 7/25/2006 13:33 06BEIRUT2464 Embassy Beirut CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN 06BEIRUT2464 "VZCZCXRO0473
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P 251333Z JUL 06
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RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY" "C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 002464

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/SINGH/HARDING

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/25/2016
TAGS: IS, LE, MOPS, PBTS, PGOV, PREL, PTER, SY
SUBJECT: TFLE01: BERRI SAYS ISRAEL WON'T WIN

Classified By: Ambassador Jeffrey D. Feltman. Reason: Section 1.4 (d)
.

SUMMARY
--------

1. (C/NF) In July 25 meeting with Speaker of Parliament
Nabih Berri, the Ambassador followed up Secretary Rice's
visit in presenting updated elements for a cease-fire
package. Berri, after his customary review of Israeli acts,
said he was still doubtful Hizballah would accept the
proposal if a prisoner exchange was not upfront. The
Ambassador said that the issue of prisoner exhanges was a
dead end. Berri believed that Hizballah was winning the war,
citing the bloody fighting at Bint Jbeil as an example. He
claimed that the IDF still has not conquered the strategic
southern town. Without reponding substantively on the
proposal for a multinational stabilization force, Berri
argued that resolution of the Shebaa Farms dispute must be a
part of the package. If Shebaa Farms are not included in the
plan, Berri said he would oppose disarming Hizballah; but if
the Shebaa Farms issue is resolved then Hizballah's arms are
no longer needed. End summary.

BERRI REVIEWS PACKAGE
CEASE-FIRE DEAL
---------------

2. (C/NF) On July 25, the Ambassador and econoff met with
Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri and his foreign affairs
adviser Ali Hamdan to follow up on the Secretary's cease-fire
proposal. The Ambassador said that the Secretary, in Israel,
is working towards a unified cease-fire package to include:
1) prohibition of any armed presence from a certain distance
from the Blue Line, 2) an embargo on arms sales to anyone in
Lebanon except the GOL, 3) LAF deployment to the south, along
with a strong international stabilization force, 4) a
commitment to no more armed element attacks on Israel, 5) a
commitment to resolve the Shebaa Farms issue, and 6)
humanitarian assistance for southern Lebanon. The
multinational stabilization force is essential, the
Ambassador said. He emphasized that Israel won't stop its
military campaign unless there is something new that prevents
a return to the status quo ante. The Secretary's proposal
not only benefits Lebanon in that it stops the fighting; it
will also mean reconstruction, security, and new jobs for
Lebanon.

3. (C/NF) Berri thanked the Ambassador, and wanted to
clarify press reports that said he rejected the Secretary's
plan out of hand yesterday. He denied he said that, and sent
MP Ali Hassan Khalil to speak on LBCI on his behalf. Berri
said the situation is getting grim; some 100,000 people have
fled to Syria, while there are 700,000 internally displaced
persons inside Lebanon. Berri added that he has Amal
officials working alongside the police making sure that
people don't take over vacated houses like during the civil
war. Berri also referred to the recent bombardment of
Nabatiyeh that devastated the town. Four Amal officials have
been killed trying to deliver medical assistance, according
to Berri.

4. (C/NF) Turning to the proposal for using a multinational
stabilization force to get a cease-fire, Berri flatly said
that he did not think it would work. Any cease-fire must
include an upfront prisoner exchange, which Berri claimed he
could make happen within a week. He was not optimistic that
Hizballah would agree to the package deal. Then Berri
launched into a double-standard argument: why shouldn't the
proposed international stabilization force be deployed in
northern Israel as well as southern Lebanon; why not
reinforce and strengthen UNIFIL? Berri disagreed that Israel
needs to make sure it doesn't reward hostage-taking. After
all, it was his Amal militia that originally captured Israeli
airman Ron Arad (before losing custody) for whom Israel was
going to offer him thousands of prisoners.

BERRI: HIZBALLAH IS WINNING
---------------------------

5. (C/NF) Berri did not believe that Hizballah was
desperate for a cease-fire. In fact, Berri argued that the
Israel was taking casualties in the battle for Bint Jbeil.
According to Berri, Israel yesterday lost two soldiers in the
ground fighting, two pilots in a helicopter crash, and 3-4
Merkava tanks. As of today, Israeli forces have not been
able to enter Bint Jbeil, said Berri. Israel tried to

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""paradrop"" (probably helo-drop) commandos into Bint Jbeil,
and failed in that attempt, too. What has the IDF done in 13
days, marveled Berri. They captured Maroun el-Ras, but ""it
is not Los Angeles, it only has two houses!""

SHEBAA FARMS IS KEY
-------------------

6. (C/NF) The Ambassador argued that Israel will not accept
a return to the status quo ante. At the same time, Lebanon
has an opportunity now that the USG is considering ideas that
might resolve the Shebaa Farms issue. Berri noted that the
Shebaa Farms are crucial. If Shebaa Farms are not turned
over to Lebanon, Berri said that he personally would oppose
disarming Hizballah. But if the Shebaa Farms are
""liberated,"" then ""who needs"" Hizballah? Berri concluded
that he understood that inclusion of the Shebaa Farms issue
this was a positive step, and agreed to keep looking for a
solution to the current crisis. (Comment: Berri stuck to
the same line he had used with the Secretary -- cease-fire
and prisoner exchanges -- which the Ambassador said would
lead to a quick dead end. But, today, Berri seemed to offer
a hint of support for a different approach, if he was assured
that Shebaa Farms would be part of the package. Berri seems
to have moved ever so slightly overnight. End comment.)

FELTMAN

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