ISRAEL MFA AND MOD CONTACTS ON POSSIBLE SUMMER WAR WITH HIZBALLAH, SYRIA


id: 107064
date: 5/7/2007 13:40
refid: 07TELAVIV1343
origin: Embassy Tel Aviv
classification: SECRET
destination:
header:
VZCZCXYZ0020
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #1343/01 1271340
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 071340Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0966
INFO RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 2121
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS 2864
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 1944
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

----------------- header ends ----------------

S E C R E T TEL AVIV 001343

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/07/2017
TAGS: PREL, PINR, MCAP, MARR, SY, LE, IS
SUBJECT: ISRAEL MFA AND MOD CONTACTS ON POSSIBLE SUMMER WAR
WITH HIZBALLAH, SYRIA

Classified By: Ambassador Richard H. Jones. Reasons: 1.4 (b)(d).

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (S) An MOD working-level official suggests that Hizballah
in southern Lebanon is not seeking a fight with Israel this
summer, but is intent on quietly rebuilding its capabilities,
and reasserting itself south of the Litani River. The
official does not rule out that Syria might try to provoke a
war with Israel this summer. An MFA working-level official
suggests that Syrian President Assad may be misinterpreting
GOI thinking about the costs and benefits of starting a war
with Syria. He describes four possible scenarios in which
Syria and Israel might enter into war. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- ------
MOD OFFICIAL SUGGESTS HIZBALLAH DOES NOT WANT A WAR
--------------------------------------------- ------

2. (S) MOD Strategic Dialogues and Defense Cooperation
Coordinator Rami Yungman told poloff May 1 that in the MOD's
assessment, Hizballah does not/not want another fight with
Israel this summer. He stressed, however, that Hizballah is
taking very tentative steps to restore its presence south of
the Litani river in Lebanon, is "seeing what it can get away
with" along the Israel-Lebanon border, and is also trying to
build up military positions just south of the Litani River.
Yungman indicated that any attempt to take an Israeli Defense
Force (IDF) soldier hostage, or to launch any kind of rocket
attack from south of the Litani River would be enough to
warrant an IDF strike against Hizballah. Yungman reiterated
that he does not envisage a conflict like last summer's this
summer, but said that if/if there were conflicts along the
Israel-Lebanon border, they would probably be small
skirmishes. Yungman underscored that the current Israeli
government -- especially in the wake of the report of the
Winograd Commission's interim findings -- would be very
hesitant to "get into anything big."

3. (S) Yungman said that Hizballah is now intent on quietly
re-arming, and is receiving rockets from Syria and Iran. He
claimed that Syria and Iran are producing many long-range
rockets on their own, and that Russia is "back in the
business" of selling rockets, sophisticated anti-tank guided
missiles (ATGMs) and air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles to
Syria. He stressed that Syria now seems inclined to supply
missiles to Hizballah with chemical warheads on them.
Yungman warned that if that were to happen, Israel would feel
compelled to strike the storage facilities where they are
located. In this way, Yungman said that Israel could enter
into a conflict with Syria.

4. (S) Yungman speculated that Syria might also try to
provoke a fight with Israel by capturing a small community or
land in the Golan Heights. He suggested that a fight with
Syria would be more traditional warfare than what was
observed in Israel's fight with Hizballah last summer. In
such a conflict, Israel would not hesitate to hit Damascus.

--------------------------------------------- ---
MFA OFFICIAL DESCRIBES POSSIBLE TRIGGERS FOR WAR
--------------------------------------------- ---

5. (S) MFA Counterterrorism and Nonproliferation Department
Deputy Director Joseph Moustaki told poloff May 3 that the
MFA has seen some intelligence that portrays Syrian President
Assad as suggesting that Israel is going to seek a fight with
Syria this summer in order to distract public attention away
from the Winograd Commission findings. Moustaki
characterized this logic as mistaken and absurd: "This is
Assad projecting on to Israelis what Arabs would do if they
were faced with domestic problems like Winograd. It shows
absolutely no understanding of how Israelis think. No
Israeli prime minister would seek such a fight under the
current situation. Nor would an Israeli prime minister seek
a fight to deflect attention from himself. If Olmert did
something like this, it is entirely possible that Israeli
soldiers would rebel, drop their guns, and tell him to go
fight Syria himself."

6. (S) Moustaki said that if Syria were to attack Israel this
summer, it would likely happen in one of four scenarios:

(a) Non-state proxies (e.g., rebellious Druze forces) carry
out terrorist attacks in the Golan Heights. This gives
Damascus deniability. Then, when Israel responds, Damascus

orders its army to attack in self-defense.

(b) There is a build-up of a war of words over the early
summer. Syria launches a pre-emptive attack on Israel,
claiming that it has to as a matter of self-defense.

(c) Syria invites Israel to peace negotiations. As the
negotiations stall, Syria points to their failure as evidence
of Israeli trickery, and uses the failed peace talks as a
casus belli.

(d) Facing a perceived imminent strike from the U.S., Iran
tells Syria to open up a "second front" on Israel, knowing
that this would draw the U.S. into a fight on this second
front.

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COMMENT
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7. (S) Moustaki and Yungman are working-level officials
within their ministries with significant access to
information that flows in and out of their bosses' offices.
Like barometers, they provide an overall sense of their
environments. We can safely say that both the MFA and MOD
are thinking about all the possible ways that Israel could
enter into conflict with Syria this summer, and the
implications of a conflict. Their observations to date are
useful in cross-indexing with those of their colleagues --
especially more senior officials -- in attempting to
determine triggers that would lead Israel into a war either
with Hizballah or Syria, or both.

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