C O N F I D E N T I A L TEL AVIV 000344 SIPDIS E.O. 12958
SUBJECT: IDF PLANS HARSHER METHODS WITH WEST BANK DEMONSTRATIONS
Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Luis G. Moreno for reasons 1.4 ( b) and (d).
1. (C) In meetings with U.S. officials on February 4, OC Central Command MG Avi Mizrachi expressed frustration with on-going demonstrations in the West Bank, which he believes are being orchestrated to increase tensions. Mizrachi, whose area of responsibility includes all of the West Bank and Central Israel, warned that the IDF will start to be more assertive in how it deals with these demonstrations, even demonstrations that appear peaceful.
2. (C) After visiting two of these "so-called peaceful demonstrations," Mizrachi said he did not know what they were about; the villages were not near the barrier and they had no problems with movement or settlers. Mizrachi asserted that the Palestinian villagers also do not know the reason for the demonstrations and said that they were only demonstrating because they were told to do so.
3. (C) Mizrachi warned that he will start sending his trucks with "dirty water" to break up these protests, even if they are not violent, because they serve no purpose other than creating friction. (NOTE: dirty water is a reference to the IDF's chemically treated water that duplicates the effects of skunk spray. End note.) Mizrachi said he heard rumors that Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad was planning to attend one of these protests, adding that if Fayyad gets sprayed with dirty water, it will make everyone look bad.
4. (C) On orders from Mizrachi, West Bank commander BG Nitzan Alon and West Bank civil administrator BG Poli Mordechi reportedly met with the Palestinian security force commanders recently to deliver a strong message that they must stop these demonstrations or the IDF will. Mizrachi asserted that he would prefer not to break up these demonstrations, but will if he must. Many of the demonstrations are organized by "suspicious people," Mizrachi said, and he plans on arresting organizers of demonstrations that "serve no purpose" beyond exciting the population.
5. (C) COMMENT: Less violent demonstrations are likely to stymie the IDF. As MOD Pol-Mil chief Amos Gilad told USG interlocutors recently, "we don't do Gandhi very well." The IDF impatience with these demonstrations may also be connected to the recent arrests of foreign NGO workers with expired or solely tourist visas who have been attending, and often organizing, the protests. The GoI reportedly ceased issuing B1 work visas to the foreign staff of NGOs working in the occupied territories; for several months now it has restricted them and their families to B2 visitor visas with varying durations and sometmies limited to single-entry. On February 10, officials from the MOI immigration enforcement unit (the "Oz" unit) told PolOff that they made the arrests of NGO workers in the West Bank at the request of the IDF. However, the court ruled that the Oz unit cannot operate beyond the Green Line, and subsequently released the detainees, who were mostly European. The Oz unit officials told PolOff that they will not challenge that ruling and have no further operations planned in the West Bank.
END COMMENT. Cunningham