Israel assessed Abbas as weak - WikiLeaks

Jerusalem - Senior Israeli defence and political figures described Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas as weak, unpopular and unlikely to survive politically past 2011, leaked US diplomatic cables showed on Monday.

In meetings with US representatives, Israeli officials ranging from then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, to senior defence official Amos Gilad expressed doubt about Abbas's political longevity.

"It was widely agreed that President Abbas is currently in a weakened political state, and Israeli officials generally cast a dour assessment of Abbas's future," said one cable, recounting details of a 2009 meeting between US assistant defence secretary Alexander Vershbow and Israeli defence officials.

"In one exchange, Amos Gilad stated his opinion that Abbas will not survive politically past the year 2011," the cable said.

Gilad, a senior policy official at the defence ministry, added that the "government of Israel has little faith in the Palestinian negotiating team".

The cables are part of a massive release of US embassy dispatches by whistleblower website WikiLeaks, which has so far published just several hundred of the reported quarter million US diplomatic cables it has obtained.

The files show Israel's long-standing assessment of Abbas as a weak figurehead unable to stand up to his political rivals, militant group Hamas.

Abbas a nice man

In 2007, then-opposition leader and current Prime Minister Netanyahu told US lawmaker Gary Ackerman that Abbas was a "nice man who means well", but that Israeli and US efforts would be better focused on undermining Hamas.

"Without elaborating, Netanyahu said it would be easier to weaken Hamas than to strengthen Abbas," the cable from the US embassy in Tel Aviv said.

And in June 2007, Mossad director Meir Dagan told then-US homeland security advisor Frances Townsend that Abbas's Fatah party was so deeply unpopular that Israel was essentially propping up his regime.

"Only Israeli military operations against Hamas in the West Bank prevent them from expanding control beyond Gaza, lamented Dagan, without which Fatah would fall within one month and Abbas would join his 'mysteriously wealthy' son in Qatar," the cable said.

"Although he expressed his personal faith in Salam Fayyad, Dagan said that the Palestinian prime minister had no power base. Fatah as a party would have to completely reorganise itself in order to regain credibility, argued Dagan, but instead they have turned once again to the 'old guard'."

On Monday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat criticised the reports of Dagan's remarks, saying the comments were "attempts to discredit the president, which raise a big question mark over the level of trust between us and them".

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