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Viewing cable 09TRIPOLI5, LIBYAN REACTIONS TO GAZA: PUBLIC OUTRAGE, PRIVATE PRAGMATISM REF: A) 08 TRIPOLI 988, B) TRIPOLI 984

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TRIPOLI5 2009-01-05 07:07 2011-02-01 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tripoli
Appears in these articles:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/wikileaks-files/libya-wikileaks/
VZCZCXRO9503
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHFL RUEHKUK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHTRO #0005 0050702
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O R 050702Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4293
INFO RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 4816
C O N F I D E N T I A L TRIPOLI 000005 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR NEA/MAG; USUN FOR GOLDBERGER, GERMAIN; DS/IP/NEA; 
DS/TIA/ITA AND DS/ICI/PII 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  1/5/2019 
TAGS: PREL UNSC UN ASEC KPAO KPAL LY
SUBJECT: LIBYAN REACTIONS TO GAZA: PUBLIC OUTRAGE, PRIVATE PRAGMATISM  REF: A) 08 TRIPOLI 988, B) TRIPOLI 984  

CLASSIFIED BY: Gene A. Cretz, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy - Tripoli, U.S. Dept of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 

1. (C) Public and press reaction in Libya to events in Gaza has largely tracked wider Arab responses, with growing coverage in local media decrying "Zionist aggression".  Authorities have authorized several demonstrations in the past week, including protests in front of the Palestinian, Jordanian, and Egyptian embassies.  On December 29, Egyptian PolCouns Ahmed Abdul Halim told Poloff that embassy personnel had been ordered to remain in their houses due to the disturbances, but stressed that the GOL's security presence around the embassy had been sufficient to control the crowd.  There have been daily protests since Israeli airstrikes against Gaza began; the high water mark so far came on December 28, when a crowd estimated at about 700 individuals threw rocks for an hour and a half at the Egyptian Embassy.  Television coverage of the protests showed crowds of boys in school uniforms milling about while smaller groups of more spirited protesters railed against Egypt's supposed complicity in the border blockade.  (Note: Most school uniforms are in the style of military fatigues, lending a martial air to the televised protests.  End Note.)  Post's FSNI attempted to approach the Egyptian embassy on January 4 to monitor the protests, but was turned back at a police checkpoint about two blocks from the scene, reflecting the fact that the "spontaneous" protests are (so far) tightly orchestrated.  

2. (C) Al-Jazeera.net reported online that "human rights activists and members of the Palestinian community" staged a demonstation in Benghazi on January 3 calling on the General People's Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation (MFA-equivalent) to expel the recently arrived U.S. Ambassador, claiming his presence "desecrates the pure Libyan land".  A statement passed to MFA representatives noted that the Ambassador's previous overseas post had been Tel Aviv, claimed he was a spy and drew a line between his service in Tel Aviv and "Zionist crimes committed with American weapons and under American political and diplomatic cover".  Neither of post's two locations have been targeted for protests to date and we have received no notice in diplomatic or security channels to date advising us that protests against U.S. interests are in the offing.  

3. (C) Libyan officials have focused their remarks against Israel and Egypt, the latter for its role in denying the trans-shipment into Gaza of some humanitarian relief shipments from Arab states.  Statements by GOL officials and state-owned media have equated Egypt's control of the al-Errish border crossing with enforcing Israel's blockade of Gaza.  At a meeting in Tripoli on December 30 of foreign ministers from Maghreb states, ministers from Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia called for an immediate end to Israel's "brutal and barbarous aggression".  Muammar al-Qadhafi called the situation "very shameful" and promised that Libya would continue to send aid as it would in any disaster.  He used his comments to renew his intermittent role as a would be pan-Arab leader, saying " ... [Gaza] is not a natural disaster...the response is not with blankets and medicines ... the response is by action, which the Arabs either do not want or are unable to do".  One of al-Qadhafi's sons, Hannibal al-Qadhafi (who has been beleaguered since his arrest in Geneva in mid-July for beating his household help), told al-Jazeera after a Libyan aircraft carrying relief supplies was denied permission by Egypt to land in the Sinai that Libya would continue to attempt aid shipments even if it meant sending planes and aircraft on "suicide missions". Further tensions were averted on December 31 when part of that shipment was delivered to Gaza.  

4. (C) Comment: Public demonstrations and statements to date suggest that the GOL is attempting to strike a difficult balance between being seen as responsive to the Arab street, its position as the only current Arab member of the UNSC and its desire to navigate the Gaza crisis with minimal collateral diplomatic damage.  With respect to the latter, there is particular concern that recently improved U.S.-Libya ties - made manifest by the recent implementation of the U.S.-Libya comprehensive claims agreement and the imminent exchange of ambassadors  - not be jeopardized.  The expulsion of the first U.S. Ambassador in 36 years a week after his arrival appears to be beyond the level of political theater the regime is currently willing to indulge as a nod to popular sentiment; however, as the the crisis wears on, domestic and external pressure on the GOL to take more direct action will increase.  Post understands that Foreign Minister Abdulrahman Shalgham is currently en route to New York, where he will join several Arab foreign ministers in urging the UNSC to adopt a resolution calling for an immediate end to Israeli military action in Gaza.  End comment.  
CRETZ