Wikileaks and Israel – so far…
Audrey Farber, 29 November 2010
That there is nothing new, or surprising, in these cables yet that we feel the need to parse through them is indicative of our frustration with the current state of affairs, leading us to believe this will be a worthwhile endeavor. Surely there is nothing new in the often-delusional Netanyahu’s petulance, or his persistent paranoid belief that Israel – nay, the Jews – is constantly under attack from all sides, even its allies. That the US will do just about anything for its protégé is likewise old – yawn – news. Netanyahu manages to coerce the US into supporting Israel in its pursuance of its divine mandate for constant, international protection no matter what, and in the face of every real or imagined obstacle.
In the WikiLeaked cables, the Israeli government constantly highlights three threats: “Iran’s nuclear program, the build-up of rockets and missiles in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, and the Goldstone Report.” (#09TELAVIV2777) In defense against each of these threats, and in other arenas, the Israelis seem adept at coercing the US into doing their bidding.
Israel’s criticisms of the Goldstone Report are verging on delusional. Its only defense – repeated time and time and time again – is that “during Cast Lead the IDF send thousands and flyers, text messages and phone calls to civilians, warning them to get out of the way.” The population of Gaza is over 1.5 million, and I don’t think over 1 million of those are Hamas militants. “The deaths of several hundred civilians in Gaza was ‘tragic,’ Netanyahu said, but there was no deliberate targeting of civilians by Israel. Deliberate targeting of civilians is a war crime, but what should Israel do when terrorists deliberately target Israeli civilians and then hide within their civilian population?” (#09TELAVIV2777) Netanyahu’s statement is contradictory and a blatant admission of criminal behavior, but this was Israel’s only defense despite Goldstone’s numerous accusations. “NSC Director for Israel and Palestinian Affairs Prem Kumar noted continued UNSC interest in the Goldstone Report, and asked Israel to inform the United States on any additional efforts or investigations the GOI was taking to help deflect any further damage from the report.” (#09TELAVIV2502) The Israeli government sees the Goldstone report as a threat – what it really is is a threat to Israel’s constant immunity. That the US, too, is keeping an eye out for “further damage” is indicative of our willingness to protect our neediest ally against any and all, especially legitimate, criticism.
Iran, and the rest of the world
Israel, perhaps rightly, perceives Iran as a threat. They seem to believe that everything from the Lebanese Armed Forces to Gaza tunnel smuggling to Turkey’s relationship with Syria represents Iranian infiltration and a constant threat. The idea that Iran is puppeteering the entire Middle East is reflected in Israel’s perception of its neighbors as part of a world-wide anti-Israel conspiracy. “Netanyahu warned…that if Iran gets a nuclear bomb, the peace process would be ‘washed away.’ Even Israel’s peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan would come under enormous pressure.” (#09TELAVIV2777) This, despite all evidence that neither Cairo nor Amman are too keen on a nuclear Iran. “The relative calm on all Israel’s borders does not obscure the fact that Israeli intelligence is seeing significant activity and planning by Iranian surrogates.” (#09TELAVIV2482) “Gilad addressed threats posed by ‘Hizballahstan’ and ‘Hamastan,’ noting that Hizballah/Hamas-Syria-Iran cooperation has strengthened. …IDF J5 Col Shimon Arad noted…Lebanon’s susceptibility to outside influences, including Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. He recommended improved US.-Israel coordination, and called for an exchange of views. Arad also recommended creating Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) deconfliction measures, demanding improved LAF performance, and exerting greater pressure on Syria and smuggling.” (#09TELAVIV2502) Further, the Israelis believe US aid to Lebanon through the LAF will, in the end, go to support Iran.
Regarding the laughable peace talks, Netanyahu and his cronies continue to throw blame, accusing Palestinians of being the ones standing in the way of peace.
- “Netanyahu stated that his government had removed hundreds of obstacles and roadblocks in the West Bank, helping the West Bank economy achieve a seven percent growth rate, adding ‘and we can kick it up to ten percent growth.’ … The current GOI had also restrainted [sic] construction in settlements more than its past several predecessors. … Netanyahu then contrasted his efforts with the PA, which he said is maintaining a ‘political and economic boycott’ of Israel, setting preconditions for negotiations, supporting the Goldstone Report in the UN, and is now talking about a unilateral declaration of independence. Israel wants to engage, but the Palestinians do not. Netanyahu quoted a Palestinian official as saying that the PA had ‘exhausted the negotiating process,’ then noted that the Palestinians have not even started to talk to his government. … Netanyahu also commented that the Palestinians had initially expected the U.S. to ‘deliver Israel’ on all of their demands, but are now realizing that this will not happen. President Obama understands, he stated, that Israel is ready to move forward. The alternatives to negotiations are bad for everyone. Netanyahu said that if Abu Mazen would engage, they would confront all the issues.” (#09TELAVIV2777)
- “Gilad described the Middle East peace process as a ‘pillar’ of Israeli security. He quoted PM Netanyahu and President Peres that Israel remains sincerely committed to peace. Gilad noted however, that the re-launching of negotiations is complicated by the split in Palestinian leadership. … That said, he noted that Israeli-PA security and economic cooperation in the West Bank continues to improve as Jenin and Nablus flourish, and described Palestinian security forces as the “good guys.”” (#09TELAVIV2502)
- “’Gilad expressed optimism over the current atmosphere in the West Bank, citing improvements in the security and economic spheres, and further stated that the reduced Israeli Defense Force (IDF) footprint in the West Bank has made conditions ripe for advancing the relationship. Gilad closed, however, on a sourer note by stating that the Government of Israel has little faith in the Palestinian negotiating team.’” (#09TELAVIV2482)
Israel is adept at slyly keeping the PA exactly where they want them: under de facto Israeli control. Indeed, Netanyahu’s generosity towards the Palestinians is heartwarming, it’s no wonder we’ve had the wool pulled over our eyes:
- “Rosenblit said that Netanyahu emphasized his openness to talks between the GOR [Government of Russia] and the Palestinians because he welcomed any way to bring them back to negotiations. ‘We wanted everyone to tell Abbas to return to negotiations because we can’t give him a deal until he sits down.’ … Rosenblit said that Israel still insists on talks without preconditions and no interim agreements: ‘Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.’” (#10MOSCOW392)
Further, the Israelis “also expressed skepticism about Palestinian President Abbas’s future, given his weakened position as a result of … his inability to get the full settlement freeze he had pushed for; they questioned his ability to restart peace negotiations.” (#09TELAVIV2482)
As always, Israel is the innocent lamb being sent to slaughter. No mention, naturally, of Israel’s responsibility in stalling negotiations; for the failure to continue the settlement freeze, no responsibility for the ambivalence towards drawing a map, no responsibility for the fact that settlers and settler violence are financially and politically supported by the Israeli government.
“Netanyahu stressed that he was not pushing for the Palestinians to hold elections, but was instead focused on promoting the expansion of the West Bank economy by removing both physical and bureaucratic obstacles.” (#09TELAVIV2777) Translation: Netanyahu rejects Palestinian statehood and any realistic potential for peace, but will do anything to make himself and his occupation look good. Israeli culpability seems to be lost on the Americans, deftly – if transparently – manipulated by Bibi. “Netanyahu said his meeting with the President was the best meeting that they have had. He stressed that he had told the President that he is ready to negotiate with Abu Mazen now, and contrasted Israel’s position with the PA’s setting of preconditions for negotiations.”
Arguably of the most financial significance is our military support for Israel. (Ironic, I think, considering their own largest economic sector is defense-based.) No matter what Israel is intending to use these weapons for – and more likely than not, against Iran or its so-called “surrogates,” we continue to give give give. These next two excerpts don’t need explanation – we are all well-acquainted with the prolific arms trade, or rather gifting, between the US and Israel. And the US and everyone else, for that matter. But read this inside the mentality of the Cold War (which I would argue is not over in the Middle East, only its players have changed), and its becomes almost hilarious.
- “10. (S) Turning to U.S. regional arms transfers, Gilad suggested Qualitative Military Edge (QME) as a “codename” for potential threats against Israel. Israel currently enjoys peace with regimes in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates — but the future is uncertain, and each of these regimes faces the potential for change, he argued. U.S. weapons — “the best in the world” — level the playing field by reducing the need for training — and could ultimately aid a future enemy of Israel, Gilad said. A/S Shapiro stressed the importance of transparency — while there may be differences between Israel and the United States in terms of a regional assessment, the key is to ensure that there are no surprises, he said.” (#09TELAVIV2502)
- “3. (S) On QME, ASD Vershbow asked for Israel’s assessment of recent discussions, and across the board, Israeli officials expressed gratitude for U.S. efforts on this front and voiced optimism on the steps moving forward. Amos Gilad acknowledged the sometimes difficult position the U.S. finds itself in given its global interests, and conceded that Israel’s security focus is so narrow that its QME concerns often clash with broader American security interests in the region. Israeli officials acknowledged the impressive nature of the QME dialogue mechanisms recently established, but stated that the results of the process are what truly matter. MG Benny Gantz defined successful QME relations as “the effective process plus the right mitigations.” While not explicitly saying it, Gantz seemed to acknowledge that Israel does not expect that all QME decisions will break in its favor, but that Israel only expects a fair and equitable process that incorporates “intimate dialogue.” DG Buchris thanked Versbhow for the recent success of the JPMG and said he looks forward to convening the first meeting of the agreed upon working groups by the end of November. Vershbow stated that the technical working group discussions would be launched soon, and that he was looking forward to future Israeli participation on this issue.” (#09TELAVIV2482)
Even if it runs contrary to our own interests, we seem to be more interested in preventing – or possibly creating – a mineshaft gap between Israel and her multitudinous enemies, we are willing to throw caution to the wind.
A piece of old news, Obama and Congress are solidly in Netanyahu’s pocket, and that is worrisome. “Netanyahu said only the U.S. and Israel are currently working on missile defense. This cooperation sends a powerful message to Israel’s enemies he noted, and thanked the CODEL and the Congress for their support.” (#09TELAVIV2777) American diplomats cannot escape the hypnotic trance of the lures of cooperation. “Tauscher reiterated that the United States will not take any action to compromise Israel’s security and would consult closely with Israel — which GOI officials greatly appreciated. … Gilad … argued against creating the impression that Israel was the problem.” (#09TELAVIV2757) Alas, it seems our only role in Middle East politics is to be arms dealer and Israel’s workhorse, extraordinaire.
If the American government is really listening to this kind of paranoid propagandic drivel, and all signs point to the affirmative, then we live in sad days indeed. The Israelis ask, and the US gives. Anything, anything, for our little darlings. Israel is never wrong, the finger is always pointed away.