Tag Archives: WikiLeaks

The Egyptian intifada and what it may mean for Israel/Palestine

The Egyptian uprising against the Mubarak regime is historic and important in its own right.  But it may also lead to significant changes in the region that could be positive for the Palestinian cause.  Israel is worried about a reliable ally being toppled next door.

The Mubarak dictatorship is a core pillar of the U.S./Israeli order in the Middle East, an order that completely ignores the wishes and aspirations of people on the ground.  The U.S. and Israel are scared of the new order that is to come.

As As’ad Abu Khalil notes at his blog, “the Israeli strategy in the Middle East has been firmly set on the continuity of the Sadat-Mubarak dictatorship.”  Israel’s peace agreement with Egypt in 1979 removed a military threat to Israel and secured millions of U.S. dollars and military support for the Egyptian dictatorship.  The Mubarak regime got carte blanche for its repressive rule.

Currently, there is extensive cooperation between Egypt and Israel.  Cables obtained by WikiLeaks, and published by Counterpunch, reveal that the Israeli military coordinated bombing runs with the Egyptian military during the 2008-09 assault on Gaza and closed the Rafah border when told in advance that Israel’s ground invasion was to begin.  WikiLeaks’ documents shed further light on Egypt currently building a wall meant to choke off smuggling tunnels into the Gaza Strip.

The fall of the Mubarak regime, which is what the youth revolt currently sweeping Egypt is calling for, could mean a number of things related to the siege of Gaza, continued efforts to crush Hamas and the political situation Israel finds itself in.

All told, what happens in Egypt will not stay in Egypt.  It will have ripple effects across the Middle East, and especially in Israel/Palestine.


‘The Palestine Cables’: WikiLeaks exposes Egypt, PA cooperation with Israel during Gaza assault

This is the fifth installment of my column on WikiLeaks and Israel/Palestine at Mondoweiss.  You can read all the installments here.

The left-wing publication Counterpunch has obtained eleven U.S.-authored cables “accessed” from WikiLeaks that deal solely with “Operation Cast Lead,” the 2008-09 Israeli assault on Gaza.  Kathleen Christison, a former CIA analyst and co-author of Palestine in Pieces, has the scoop:

Though the cables often simply rehash Israeli press reporting, providing little new insight into Israel’s attack or the planning behind it, they show with pitiless clarity the U.S. government to be little more than a handmaiden and amanuensis of the Israeli military machine.

The State Department cables also reveal for the first time that while Israel waged a devastating assault on the Gaza Strip, eventually killing an estimated 1,400 Palestinians, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority (PA) were actively working with Israel.  Previous cables from WikiLeaks revealed that Israel had “consulted” with Egypt and the PA prior to the beginning of “Cast Lead.”  The PA denied the allegations then.

A December 29, 2008 cable from the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv reports (in bold on the Counterpunch page on the leaks):

At 16:00 on December 28, the IDF bombed the Phiadelphi corridor along the Gaza-Egypt border, destroying 39-40 smuggling tunnels. No Egyptian border guards were harmed. IDF contacts have repeatedly told DATT that the targeting of the tunnels was coordinated with Egypt, and that they had passed the coordinates of the attack points to the Egyptians to enable them to ensure the safety of their border forces.

A January 4, 2009 cable from Cairo notes:

As of 1500 hrs. local on January 4, Egyptian military contacts said Egypt closed the Rafah border crossing on January 4 after the Israelis gave advanced warning of their ground invasion and additional air strikes on the smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Rafah border

One December 30, 2008 cable from Jerusalem details the contacts made between the PA and Israel regarding protests against the assault in the West Bank:

PA commanders complained about IDF use of live ammunition, responsible for three Palestinian fatalities in December 27-28 protests. MG [Thiab Mustafa] Ali [the commander of the Palestinian security forces] said IDF commanders told them live ammunition is the last resort when dealing with Palestinian demonstrators, and IDF rules of engagement only authorize it when the lives of IDF soldiers or Israeli citizens are at immediate risk

Despite the “complaints,” the next section of the Dec. 30 cable notes that “both sides” agreed to “increase coordination”:

PA commanders said they told IDF officers that President Abbas and PM Fayyad both directed them to avoid situations that could develop into confrontations with the IDF. The security chiefs said Abbas and Fayyad passed a message to all Palestinian factions, at a PLO Executive Committee meeting on December 29, that only peaceful marches away from flashpoints would be permitted. PA commanders noted they have no control on over B/C areas such as Qalandiya and Nil’in, and would need IDF approval to move PA forces to those areas to prevent clashes between protesters and the IDF…

PA commanders said their IDF counterparts agreed to expedite coordination and movement requests and exchange information on possible disturbances, as both sides have an interest in preventing West Bank violence. They said both sides also agreed not to leak substantive discussions about the meeting to the press, given the sensitivity of security coordination in a time of Palestinian outrage over events in Gaza.

The new leak of what Al Jazeera is calling the “Palestine Papers” are likely to confirm the WikiLeaks revelations by publishing “details of the PA’s security cooperation with Israel” over the next few days.

WikiLeaks Shows Israel Lied about Settlement Incentives

A State Department cable from a June 2009 meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implies that the State of Israel no longer provides incentives for illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.  But the recently passed budget for 2011-2012 shows that the Israeli government’s funding for their illegal settlement enterprise is humming along.

According to a cable published by WikiLeaks:

In response to a question about GOI incentives to settlers, Netanyahu’s adviser Ron Dermer said the Olmert government had already removed them. Netanyahu said this was an issue that Israel could discuss further with the U.S.

But last Wednesday, the Israeli Knesset passed a budget with a load of incentives for settlers:

The 2011-2012 budget, approved on Wednesday by the Knesset, allocates NIS 2 billion to settlements, their services and security, and hundreds of millions of shekels more hidden among the different clauses of the bill.


Most of the settlements have been defined as areas of first national priority, in which the Israel Land Administration subsidizes 69 percent of the cost of land, or second national priority areas, in which the subsidy reaches 49 percent of the price of the land.

The purchasers of flats in a national priority area can receive a subsidized loan up to NIS 97,000, whether the flats are located in a priority area within Israel or in the West Bank. The housing assistance budget comes up to NIS 87,368 million in 2011, and NIS 86,518 million in 2012.



The Hypocrisy of Fran Townsend

Fran Townsend, a former Bush administration advisor and now a CNN contributor

In the midst of the now-famous debate on CNN between Glenn Greenwald and Fran Townsend on WikiLeaks, Townsend claimed:

[The release of the State Department cables] was so vast, of what was public, whether or not it would be useful or no he made no distinctions about the harm he might be doing to foreign governments, to the U.S. government, to diplomats and soldiers around the world.

While Townsend is implying that WikiLeaks’ has caused harm to “diplomats and soldiers”–a claim that has no merit–she is at the same time an outspoken supporter of a designated terrorist group:  the Mujaheddin-e-Khalq (MEK).

Last week, according to Talking Points Memo (and pointed out by Mondoweiss):

A group of prominent Bush-era Republicans, including former NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former White House adviser Frances Townsend and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, flew to Paris to speak in support of an Iranian exile group there — one that’s been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S.

TPM explains the history of MEK:

The group, known as Mujaheddin-e Khalq or MEK, is a militant group that’s been violently fighting the Iranian government since the 1960s. It has ties to the regime of Saddam Hussein, which trained and outfitted the MEK and for whom the MEK fought in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. According to the State Department, which declared the group a terrorist organization in 1997, the group’s philosophy is a combination of “Marxism, Islam, and feminism.

WikiLeaks does not have “blood on its hands,” as Townsend implied.  The MEK, on the other hand, does, according to the U.S. State Department–and has also caused harm to the very same U.S. “government, diplomats and soldiers” Townsend ostensibly looks out for:

During the 1970s, the MEK assassinated several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians working on defense projects in Tehran and supported the violent takeover in 1979 of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Despite U.S. efforts, MEK members have never been brought to justice for the group’s role in these illegal acts.

In 1981, MEK leadership attempted to overthrow the newly installed Islamic regime; Iranian security forces subsequently initiated a crackdown on the group. The MEK instigated a bombing campaign, including an attack against the head office of the Islamic Republic Party and the Prime Minister’s office, which killed some 70 high-ranking Iranian officials, including Chief Justice Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, President Mohammad-Ali Rajaei, and Prime Minister Mohammad-Javad Bahonar..

The MEK’s relationship with the former Iraqi regime continued through the 1990s. In 1991, the group reportedly assisted in the Iraqi Republican Guard’s bloody crackdown on Iraqi Shia and Kurds who rose up against Saddam Hussein’s regime; press reports cite MEK leader Maryam Rajavi encouraging MEK members to “take the Kurds under your tanks.”



‘The Palestine Cables’: Other countries want to ’smoke out’ Israel on NPT and Mossad use of passports

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

ReutersUAE considered keeping Mabhouh hit under wraps, WikiLeaks cables reveal

WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Promises 3700 Files on Israel

The Arabic-language news outlet Al Jazeera aired an interview last Wednesday with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.  Some excerpts from this translated version:

When will you publish the files related to Israel on your website?

We will publish 3700 files and the source is the American embassy in Tel Aviv. Prime Minister Netanyahu was traveling to Paris to talk to the US ambassador there. You will see more information about that in six months.

Do these Israeli files speak about the July 2006 Israeli war against Lebanon?

Yes there is some information about that and these files were classified as top secret.

Is there any relation with these files and the assassination of Hamas military leader Al Mabhoh in Dubai?

Yes there are some indication to this and may be some special reports published by newspapers. Mossad agents used Australian, British and European passports to travel to Dubai and there are diplomatic files about that…

The English-language Jerusalem Post adds in this intriguing tidbit:

“The Guardian, El-Pais and Le Monde have published only two percent of the files related to Israel due to the sensitive relations between Germany, France and Israel. Even The New York Times could not publish more due to the sensitivities related to the Jewish community in the US,” [Assange] added.

Lawrence Swaim of the Interfaith Freedom Foundation had interesting insights on this interview.  He told me that the most interesting answer Assange gave was when he said that he needs “more journalists including Arabs to read and analyse and put everything in the context for the benefit of the readers.”  Swaim comments:

This indicates the increasing collaboration of Assange with established media. And the more he collaborates, the more selectivity in releasing date will occur, and the more political that selectivity will become. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing–I think it’s a great thing. And the selectivity was inevitable, since a cold drop of thousands of piece of data on the internet wasn’t really working for Assange. The point he is trying to make–about systemic evil in government–was getting buried in plain sight under the weight of a great deal of useless material.

Assange is simply saying at this point that he’s going to release stuff about Israel, a great deal of which originates with the Israelis themselves. Therefore he is in a position to retaliate if the US keeps using CIA assets and allies to imprison him by releasing things that will embarrass Israel. He may not have had that it mind at the beginning, but that’s the way it’s shaping up. But Assange is playing a dangerous game. He’s too high-profile now to be assassinated, but the US security establishment may decide they need to punish Assange as an example. Thus they may keep trying to run him to ground while drafting new law preventing the free flow of information to and in the internet. But that way, they will recieve very strong opposition from hacktivists.

‘The Palestine Cables’: Gaza is a burning issue from Egypt to Latin America to Pakistan, to John Kerry being ’shocked by what I saw’

This is the third installment of my new column on WikiLeaks and Israel/Palestine at Mondoweiss.  You can read all the installments here.

Forsaken by the “peace process,” ignored by mainstream media, denied justice two years after Israel committed what many rights groups called war crimes– still, the plight of Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip remains a burning issue around the world.  Cables from the trove of State Department documents WikiLeaks has been releasing show that global civil society’s outrage at the brutal 2008-09 Israeli assault on Gaza has resonated with governments everywhere, and that Gaza remains a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the Israeli occupation.

–A cable from February 2010 states that Egypt’s government has voiced concern over “intense domestic and regional criticism of perceived complicity in the Israeli blockade of Gaza” because of its “counter smuggling efforts, including the construction of a subterranean steel wall along the Egypt-Gaza border.”

–The General Intelligence Chief in Egypt, Omar Soliman, told a U.S. diplomat in April 2009 that “‘incidents like Gaza…inflame public anger’” and that Operation Cast Lead “put ‘moderate (Arab) regimes’ in a corner.”

–The undersecretary for Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs told a U.S. diplomat during a February 2010 visit that the “‘humanitarian situation in Gaza,’” which is not a punishment of Hamas, but of the Gazan people, fed Turkish popular anger against Israel.”

–A document prepared for a U.S. Senator’s upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia in March 2009 states that, “Saudi and Arab public opinion have reacted strongly to the Israeli offensive on Gaza, creating intense pressure on Arab governments to act. The Saudis fear instability and increasing Iranian influence could result, and believe that there is a limited window of opportunity for action.”

–Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant Islamist group that operates out of Pakistan, “purportedly raises funds for the Palestinian people in response to Israel’s attacks on Gaza,” according to an August 2009 cable.

But as the international coalition that made headlines last May when Israeli naval forces raided their flotilla and killed 9 people showed, the issue of Gaza doesn’t only resonate in the Arab and Muslim world.

–When Assistant Secretary Thomas Shannon visited Spain in January 2009, “Gaza crept into discussions of Latin America,” according to a State Department cable.  While that cable doesn’t go into more detail about the content of the discussions about Gaza, it likely reflects the intense Spanish and Latin American solidarity with the people of Gaza.  In a February 2009 cable, Benjamin Netanyahu told a Congressional delegation that “there were larger demonstrations against the Gaza operation in Madrid and London than in the West Bank.”

–U.S. Senator John Kerry told Qatar’s prime minister in February 2010 that he was “‘shocked by what I saw in Gaza.’”

The two-year anniversary of the Israeli assault on Gaza is approaching, and the situation in the Strip has not changed much. But friends of the Palestinians can surely take solace in the fact that governments around the world are beginning to take notice of Palestinian conditions as a result of popular pressure.  The WikiLeaks cables show further that Israel may have gone too far during those “22 days of death and destruction.”

For more WikiLeaks news and analysis relating to Israel/Palestine, see:

Foreign Policy’s Mideast Channel, Matt Duss:  “Linkage and its discontents: What WikiLeaks reveals about Israel-Palestine”

The Angry Arab News Service, As’ad Abu Khalil:  “Why Israel has not figured in Wikileaks yet”

The Guardian, Ian Black:  “WikiLeaks cables: Syria believed Israel was behind sniper killing”

AFP“WikiLeaks: Fatah asked Israel to attack Hamas”

‘The Palestine Cables’: WikiLeaks dox expose Netanyahu’s vision of Palestinian bantustan

This is the second installment of my new column on WikiLeaks and Israel/Palestine at Mondoweiss.  You can read all the installments here.

The Obama administration’s failure to bribe Israel’s right-wing government into accepting a three-month settlement “freeze” should have ended talk about the “peace process,” but Obama’s Middle East team is still crawling towards a two-state solution with little light at the end of the tunnel.  State Department cables released by WikiLeaks will dim the lights further.  The cables show that Israeli officials’ stated vision of a Palestinian state is one that is feeble and toothless–a vision that could snuff out any remaining hope of a viable Palestinian state.

During an April 2007 meeting with Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY), an ardent supporter of Israel, then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu said that “a return to the 1967 borders and dividing Jerusalem was not a solution since further withdrawals would only whet the appetite of radical Islam.”  Netanyahu also referred to the Palestinian right of return as an “acid test,” saying that “the Palestinians must drop the right of return and accept Israel’s right to exist,” and that “not one refugee could ever return.”

Another cable, which describes a meeting Netanyahu held with a U.S. Congressional delegation two weeks after the 2009 Israeli elections, shows Netanyahu repeating his vision of a Palestinian bantustan.  According to the cable, Netanyahu’s vision of a Palestinian state is one where Palestinian sovereignty is “refined,” meaning “without an army or control over air space and borders.”

Once he assumed the office of prime minister, Netanyahu’s conception of a Palestinian state stayed the same.  A cable describing an April 2009 meeting with another Congressional delegation notes that Netanyahu said that “a Palestinian state must be demilitarized, without control over its air space and electro-magnetic field, and without the power to enter into treaties or control its borders.”

The image of a sovereign-less, still-occupied state for the Palestinians isn’t just confined to the leader of the right-wing Likud party; the leader of Kadima, which is routinely described as a “centrist” party, also shares that image.  In a January 2007 document meant to prepare Condoleeza Rice for an upcoming trip to Israel, the author references a Ha’aretz interview where Livni said her vision of “an interim agreement with the Palestinians” was one in which the illegal “separation barrier would serve as the border.”

The negotiations brokered by the Obama administration have not changed Israeli leaders’ insistence on creating a sliced-up Palestinian entity that lacks any real power.  Newsweek, relying on “a Palestinian official involved in the talks and an Israeli source familiar with the details,” lately reported on the September 2010 round of negotiations:

Netanyahu told the Palestinians they had to accept Israel’s “security concept” before he would discuss other issues, including borders. The concept involved keeping Israeli troops stationed along territory on the Palestinian side of the barrier Israel has built in the West Bank to protect what Israel calls its “narrow waistline.” That strip would be several kilometers wide at some points, says the Palestinian negotiator, and run along much of the seam line. Also, to protect itself against the possible rise of a hostile Islamic state in Jordan, say both sources, Netanyahu insisted Israeli troops would remain posted in the Jordan Valley for years. Though Netanyahu didn’t present maps, Abbas and his negotiators calculated that Palestinians would be left with just 60 percent of the West Bank.

This conception of a Palestine that lacks some of the core attributes a nation-state possesses–the ability to defend themselves with a military, and control over their air space and borders–is wholly inconsistent with international law and the United States’ past statements.

But there George Mitchell is, still talking to both Israeli and Palestinian officials and trying to jump start the moribund “peace process” once again.  And for what?

As the WikiLeaks cables reveal, not much of anything.

Is Israeli Decision to Have PA Supervise Exports Out of Gaza First Step in Plan Revealed by WikiLeaks?

Israel yesterday announced an expansion of exports out of the blockaded Gaza Strip, a small but welcome step in the ongoing efforts to break the crippling blockade.

But perhaps that’s not the most important news to come out of the announcement.  What could have more significance is that Palestinian Authority (PA) “inspectors will begin to work in the Kerem Shalom crossing, and oversee the collection of import taxes and the export of goods from Gaza to the West Bank,” according to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz.  “This would mark the first return of Palestinian Authority officials to the Gaza Strip since the Hamas takeover in June 2007.”

The recently released State Department cables by WikiLeaks add important context behind the decision to have the PA return to Gaza.

Hamas, which runs Gaza, has not yet publicly reacted to this news.  But it’s sure to be unwelcome for the Islamist movement, who have so far resisted any suggestions that the PA be allowed to operate in Gaza.  Since the brief civil war between Hamas and Fatah in 2007, which came as a result of the U.S. arming and encouraging Fatah to take over Gaza despite Hamas having won the 2006 Palestinian elections democratically, reconciliation talks between the two sides have been ongoing.  They have so far failed.

At the same time of the reconciliation talks, both Hamas and Fatah have been arresting each other’s supporters and party members, further driving a wedge between the parties and the territories they govern, which has long been an Israeli priority.

What emerges in the WikiLeaks State Department cables is a realization that Israel and Egypt’s long-term plan for Gaza, backed by the U.S., is to have the PA return there.  Might the Israeli decision to allow exports out of Gaza and to have PA officials supervise the Kerem Shalom crossing be a first step in attempting that goal?

One of the most explosive revelations relating to Israel/Palestine that has come out of WikiLeaks is the cable that shows that, about five months after the end of the 2008-09 Israeli assault, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the U.S. that he had “consulted with Egypt and Fatah prior to Operation Cast Lead, asking if they were willing to assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas.”

Other cables show similar entreaties by interested parties, all of them wanting to strengthen the PA.  The head of Egypt’s intelligence services, Omar Soliman, told the U.S. in July 2009 that “Egypt’s three primary objectives with the Palestinians were to maintain calm in Gaza, undermine Hamas, and build popular support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.”  Another cable from 2007, states that Benjamin Netanyahu said that “Israel and the U.S. should focus on ‘bringing down Hamas’ through an ‘economic squeeze.’”

The cables show an intent to subvert Palestinian democracy and strengthen the PA at the expense of Hamas.  The wishes of the PA returning to power in Gaza, expressed in the State Department cables, may now partly come true with the latest Israeli decision on exports out of Gaza–but only at the expense of the Palestinian people, who still find themselves politically divided while Israel’s occupation and land confiscation grinds on.  Unilaterally installing the PA at a Gaza crossing won’t help.

‘The Palestine Cables’: WikiLeaks expose European chill on Israel after Cast Lead, and Lebanese advice on defeating Hezbollah

I’ve begun writing a weekly column over at the Nation Institute’s Mondoweiss, where I’ll be looking at what the WikiLeaks State Department cables say about Israel/Palestine.  This is the first installment in “The Palestine Cables”:

The revelations from the classified State Department cables being published by WikiLeaks and news organizations keep coming, and there’s no shortage of items concerning Israel/Palestine.

The cables have included interesting revelations about European countries’ relations with Israel–and how much the Goldstone report has mattered, thought not enough–as well as what seems to be a Lebanese official passing on advice to the Israeli government on how to defeat Hezbollah in a new conflict.

One cable, dated September 5, 2006 and sent from the U.S. embassy in Dublin, reports that the Irish government “has informally begun to place constraints on U.S. operations at the facility, mainly in response to public sensitivities
over U.S. actions in the Middle East.”  Specifically, the cable states that the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs decided to “forbid U.S. military transits carrying munitions to Israel” because of “the Irish public’s overwhelming opposition to Israeli military actions in Lebanon.”

Another cable dated October 29, 2009 from the U.S. embassy in France reports that, days before France and Israel were set to hold a “strategic dialogue,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and suggested that Israel “establish an independent investigation into the actions of the Israeli Defense Forces in the Gaza conflict.”  Sarkozy said that “such a step would decrease pressure on Israel and its allies stemming from the Goldstone Report, but Netanyahu responded briskly: ‘No way.’”  In addition, the cable notes that “European countries stopped selling Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) parts to Israel” after the 2008-09 assault on Gaza, although France had continued to sell UAV parts to Israel.

There was also the November 10, 2009 suggestion–two weeks out from when Israel first “froze” settlements–from Germany that the U.S. force Israel to agree to a settlement freeze or else risk the U.S. withdrawing pledges to block U.N. Security Council votes on the Goldstone report.  The U.S. said no, calling the proposal “counterproductive.”

Compared to the U.S.’s routine practice of groveling before Israel, the European countries’ attitude towards Israel seems remarkable.  But that’s not the full story–Europe remains deeply complicit in the Israeli occupation.

I reached out to David Cronin, the author of the soon-to-be-released book Europe’s Alliance with Israel:  Aiding the Occupation, to get his reaction to the WikiLeaks revelations about Europe-Israel relations:

It is correct that the Dublin government has felt an obligation to respond to the widespread public revulsion in Ireland at Israel’s barbaric treatment of the Palestinian people, as well as Israel’s 2006 war against Lebanon. It is also true that Micheal Martin, the Irish foreign minister, has been more critical of Israel than any of his counterparts in the EU.

Yet his criticisms have been largely tokenistic. When evidence emerged that Mossad, the Israeli secret service, had used counterfeit passports so that its agents could pose as Irish citizens when assassinating a leading member of Hamas in January, Ireland expelled an Israeli diplomat from the country. The Irish government had an opportunity to make its displeasure known in more strident terms in May, when Israel’s application to join the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) was under discussion. Yet Ireland took no concrete steps to block Israel’s membership of this elite capitalist club, a move that was rightly seen as a major diplomatic and political victory for the Israeli government…

France and Germany both have governments that have acted as an apologist for Israel on many occasions in recent years. Indications or reports that they have been unhappy with some aspects of the occupation do not alter this general picture. Neither France nor was prepared to support the Goldstone report, which documented how Israel had committed crimes against humanity in Gaza in 2008 and 2009. (Germany voted against the report at the United Nations last year, while France abstained).

To a significant degree, the EU’s foreign policy is determined by its largest member states. All four of its largest countries – France, Germany, Britain and Italy – have right-leaning governments that consistently defend Israel, albeit with the occasional expression of concern when Israel is perceived to have gone “too far” (e.g. with the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla). It is almost as if these governments are competing with each other to see which one can be the most pro-Israel.

In Lebanon, the WikiLeaks State Dept. cables are fueling tensions.  A March 2008 conversation revealed that “Lebanon’s Defense Minister Elias Murr told Americans the army would stay out of the way if Israel tried to wipe out Hezbollah,” according to a Los Angeles Times report.  The cables were published by the left-wing Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar.

In an e-mail, As’ad Abu Khalil, a Middle East analyst who blogs at the Angry Arab, commented that “Al-Murr was basically (like other Arab leaders–although he is no leader) trying to get close to the US by showing his goodwill toward Israel.”

These cables from WikiLeaks follow a growing sense of unease in Lebanon ahead of the expected indictments of Hezbollah members for the 2005 killing of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and Hezbollah’s vows to resist the indictments.

For more news and analysis on the WikiLeaks State Dept. cables and Israel/Palestine, see:

Josh Ruebner, the Huffington Post: WikiLeaks: Israel’s Security Concerns Often Clash With U.S. Interests

Ian Black, the GuardianWikiLeaks cables: Sudan warned to block Iranian arms bound for Gaza

Ewen MacAskill, the Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: Saudis proposed Arab force to invade Lebanon

Marc Lynch, Foreign PolicyWhat the WikiLeaks cables really say about Arabs and Iran

Yousef Munayyer, the Palestine Center’s Permission to Narrate blog:  Top 10 Wikileaks Palestine Nuggets

Yousef Munayyer, the Palestine Center’s Permission to Narrate blog:  Who Remembered Gaza in Wikileaks?

Stuart Littlewood, the Palestine ChronicleWikileaks: Did Abbas Know about the War on Gaza?