This is the fourth installment of my new column on WikiLeaks and Israel/Palestine at Mondoweiss. You can read all the installments here.
Whether it’s the Mossad’s use of foreign passports or the refusal to open up about its nuclear weapons program, Israel is developing a reputation as a rogue state. Some of the nearly 2,000 secret State Department cables so far released by WikiLeaks and its media partners reveal that governments around the world are getting impatient with these practices.
Israel joins India, Pakistan and North Korea as the only states to possess nuclear weapons without being a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the key pillar in the international effort to limit the spread of nuclear weapons.
Some governments want to put an end to Israel’s official policy of “ambiguity” over its nuclear weapons program:
–In February 2010, an Egyptian military official “called on the United States to not ignore the Israeli nuclear program. He stated that Israel’s nuclear program only gave Iran justification for creating its own nuclear weapons. If Iran obtained nuclear weapons, it would only embolden Iran to use Hezbollah and Hamas with impunity.” Juan Cole comments that this cable is proof that “Israel’s nuclear stockpile inspires neighbors with fear and trepidation, and impels them to try to get a nuclear bomb themselves.”
–An American Assistant Secretary of State, Rose Gottemoeller, held meetings with a number of foreign diplomats about the NPT in May 2009. Canadian ambassador Marius Grinius, whose country is one of Israel’s staunchest allies, told Gottemoeller that “it was time for the [Conference on Disarmament) to 'smoke out' Pakistan, Iran and Israel on their positions [regarding the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty].”
–An April 2009 cable meant to prepare Dennis Ross for a visit to Egypt states that the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs “believes that a harder U.S. line in UN fora on Israel’s nuclear program would strengthen the U.S. position on demanding Iran cease working to develop nuclear weapons.”
–A February 2010 cable describes efforts by the French and U.S. governments to entice Egypt to get on board with efforts to stop nuclear weapons spreading around the Middle East. One way to do that, the French government suggested, was to push “Israel to accept CTBT [Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty].”
Ire has also been directed at Israel because of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, using foreign passports:
–After two Israeli citizens were sentenced to jail in New Zealand on charges of attempting to obtain a false passport, a U.S. diplomatic cable reported in July 2004 that, “Prime Minister Helen Clark suspended high-level contact with Israel and announced a range of diplomatic sanctions, including placing Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) officials under ‘strict constraints’ in their contact with Israelis.”
State Department cables are also beginning to trickle out about the Mossad’s involvement in the January assassination of Hamas member Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, again with the misuse of passports being an issue.
But it is the U.S. that is shielding Israel from accountability on both NPT and passport abuse.
Despite calling for a world free of nuclear weapons, in August 2010 the Obama administration said that “Israel has [the] right to nuclear capability for deterrence purposes.” A December 2009 cable reports that a U.S. diplomat strategized with the Israeli government on a “potential strategy in addressing Egyptian insistence on pushing for the establishment of a nuclear weapon free zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East, as a way to divert attention from Iran to Israel.”
The U.S. also “declined a request from the United Arab Emirates to assist an investigation into the assassination of a top Hamas commander,” according to a February 2010 cable.
For more WikiLeaks news and analysis relating to Israel/Palestine, see:
–Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam: Wikileaks: State Department Lied, Denying Dubai Asked for Assistance in Tracking Mossad Assassins
–Asa Winstanley, New Left Project: Wikileaks: Insights on Palestine from the Cables
–Reuters: UAE considered keeping Mabhouh hit under wraps, WikiLeaks cables reveal