Settlers open to being evacuated from West Bank

Wikileaks disclosures revealed cable by US diplomats in Tel Aviv quotes an Israeli settler leader,as saying that some West Bank residents would be willing to move in exchange for financial compensation.

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TEL AVIV // Wikileaks disclosures revealed last week details about some settlers' openness to being evacuated from the West Bank, about Israel's analysis of the strength of Lebanon's Hizbollah group, about Israel's criticism of Egypt's cooperation on arms smuggling and about Israel's views of the Palestinian leadership.

One cable by US diplomats in Tel Aviv quotes an Israeli settler leader, Dani Dayan, as saying that some residents of the Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank would be willing to move out in exchange for proper financial compensation.

"I am an economist, and I know that some people will take it if the price is right," Mr Dayan told the US diplomats. He also said that he "understood" Palestinians' connection to West Bank land.

That contradicted public statements made by Mr Dayan that settlers will not leave the territory under any circumstances.

His WikiLeaks comments sparked outrage among some of the more hard-line settlers on Friday, prompting them to demand that Mr Dayan resign as head of the Yesha settlers' council.

The disclosures also showed Israel's expectation of another possible clash with Lebanon's Hizbollah group, with which it fought a 34-day war in 2006.

One US embassy telegram from November 2009 said an Israeli official from the Mossad believed Hizbollah could launch up to 36,000 rockets from Lebanon in the event of another war.

Another memo said Israel assessed that the group planned for a "long" conflict of at least two months and intended to launch a "massive" number of rockets and missiles - some 400 to 600 a day - into Israeli territory, including aiming 100 missiles at Tel Aviv.

Another cable also criticised US arms supply to the Lebanese army, with Amos Gilad, then a top Israeli defence ministry official, saying that "the Lebanese army will come to the defence of Hizbollah if attacked by Israel. Thus, a strengthened [Lebanese military] hurts Israel."

Another document from the same month showed that Israeli officials viewed Mohammed Tantawi, who is head of Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that took the country's helm after Hosni Mubarak was ousted as president, as an "obstacle" to their efforts to counter arms smuggling into Gaza from Egypt's Sinai desert.

The cables also revealed how Israeli leaders have viewed top officials in the western-backed Palestinian Authority, especially Mahmoud Abbas, the president and the main Palestinian partner in the peace process with Israel.

Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister of Israel and the head of an ultranationalist party, reportedly told then-US ambassador Richard Jones in an October 2006 meeting that Mr Abbas was "weak and corrupted and no longer relevant".

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, told a delegation of US members of Congress in November 2009 that "Abbas was sulking and that sulking is not a good policy," according to the cable.

The premier also accused Palestinian leaders of exploiting "the stereotype that Netanyahu is a peace obstructionist" despite him having moved closer to their positions in the peace process, the cable said.

But some Israeli leaders complimented Mr Abbas. Ehud Olmert, Mr Netanyahu's predecessor, told Congress members at a meeting in early 2009 that Mr Abbas is "a pleasant guy" and that the two of them had spent many hours together "in wonderful talks."

Mr Olmert also indicated that his more hard-line successor's ideas may not be welcomed by Mr Abbas, saying that Mr Netanyahu may be told by Mr Abbas "to go to hell".