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

WikiLeaks has gone from a drip to a torrent, and we need a way to keep up. With this post we inaugurate a new feature at this site. “The Palestine Cables” will be a weekly chronicle/analysis of important revelations bearing on Israel/Palestine that are contained in the ongoing dump of hundreds of thousands of U.S. State Department cables. Alex Kane will be preparing these reports (when he is not in Israel/Palestine himself). Without further ado, Part I, 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 Germany 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?

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist and blogger based in New York City.  He blogs on Israel/Palestine and Islamophobia in the United States at alexbkane.wordpress.com.  Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

Posted in Israel/Palestine, US Policy in the Middle East | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

{ 28 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Ian says:

    Perhaps read 09TELAVIV2757 report of Tauscher’s visit in December 2009.

    Para 26: (S) Turning to his crystal ball, Gilad was not sure
    Tehran had decided it wants a nuclear weapon — but is
    “determined” to obtain the option to build one.

    So Israel is not sure that Iran has decided it wants a nuclear weapon – not what Israel states publicly because this means that Iran is compliant with the NPT. It also suggests that the files Israeli intelligence provided as coming from an Iranian laptop detailing a nuclear weapons program were faked otherwise Gilad would be sure that there was a program! Since he knows the files are fakes he is not sure.

  2. Shmuel says:

    In carefully crafted official statements, the European Union presents itself as an honest broker in the Middle East. In reality, however, the EU’s 27 governments have been engaged in a long process of accommodating Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. Journalist David Cronin interrogates the relationship and its outcomes. A recent agreement for “more intense, more fruitful, more influential co-operation” between the EU and Israel has meant that Israel has become a member state of the Union in all but name. Cronin shows that rather than using this relationship to encourage Israeli restraint, the EU has legitimized actions such as the ill-treatment of prisoners and the Gaza invasion. Concluding his revealing and shocking account, Cronin calls for a continuation and deepening of international activism and protest to halt the EU’s slide into complicity.

    This is the reality of European policy toward Israel, not the false hopes that exasperated Americans like to pin on the Union. And with the exception of the far (and impotent) left, it is a policy that is supported by the entire political spectrum in Europe’s policy-determining 4 (Germany, France, Britain and Italy).

    • Citizen says:

      What I don’t understand is, since all the goyhim harbor a root inborn desire to kill all the Jews, why do their democratic governments insist on favoring Israel over the Palestinians? As a liberal zionist, I don’t get this practical inconsistency. Do you? It doesn’t even account for the UN recognition of the state of Israel in the first place, let alone all the material aid the goy democracies have lavished on Israel since its founding. Should I question my zionist premises? Tear out my beating zionist heart? When you cut a zionist, doesn’t he or she bleed?

      • Shmuel says:

        Well-taken sarcasm aside, European positions vis-à-vis Israel can be understood in light of the following (in no particular order):

        Holocaust guilt/shock, US hegemony, European corporate interests – including corporate media, Islamophobia, support for Israel as a means of rehabilitation for the far-right (hey we like Jews now), and a distorted (and misguided) sense of moderacy and responsibility on the centre-right and centre-left that likes to reject “causes”, especially those identified with the historical left and the ’68 generation (student revolt).

        • eee says:

          Ok, so you can muster excuses in Europe that do not include the lobby. Seems to me many of them can work in the US also. At least it shows that battling the lobby in the US is wrong headed, because even without the lobby Europe’s policy has not changed.

        • Kathleen says:

          battling the lobby is critical. Demanding that Aipac, Jinsa sign up under the Foreign Agents Registration Act is essential

        • Citizen says:

          I agree, Kathleen, and the other reasons Shmuel gives merely address the other things we battle too–eee tries (feebly) to make it appear as if we
          don’t. Could there be two people more different than Shmuel and eee? G-D love and keep eee–far away from me. Shmuel OTOH, would be a wonderful neighbor.

    • eee says:

      Shmuel,

      And what is the explanation for the EU’s attitude towards Israel? Do you also think is related to the Israel lobby?

      • Shmuel says:

        3e,

        There are pro-Israel lobbies active in the various European national capitals, as well as in Brussels and Strasbourg – with varying degrees of influence. US-based pro-Israel organisations are also active in Europe, both directly and through their European counterparts, and to the extent that policy set in DC affects European policy (a great deal), the efforts of the lobby in DC also have an impact in Europe.

        As in the US, the lobby is a part of the story, but by no means the whole story. In Europe the role of the lobby is less evident, and probably somewhat less important, although still significant, as explained above.

    • Bumblebye says:

      Guess where she is now?!

      link to huffingtonpost.com

      laugh or howl?

      • annie says:

        omg:

        Ardin, who also goes by the name Bernardin, has moved to the West Bank in the Palestinian Territories, as part of a Christian outreach group, aimed at bringing reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis. She has moved to the small town of Yanoun, which sits close to Israel’s security/sequestration wall. Yanoun is constantly besieged by fundamentalist Jewish settlers, and international groups have frequently stationed themselves there.

        Attempts by Crikey to contact Ardin by phone, fax, email and twitter were unsuccessful today.

        you can’t make this shit up.

        • Antidote says:

          Strange indeed. As are the ‘news’ [?] that Assange met with Israeli officials in Geneva prior to the cable leaks, and that the Israelis sifted through the files to remove all cables they didn’t want the world to see. What’s one to make of that?

          link to youtube.com

          Can anyone verify this allegation, or is it just wild speculation?

        • annie says:

          i take my wayne madsen w/a grain of salt thank you very much. i think more likely

          “They are releasing the documents we selected,” Le Monde’s managing editor, Sylvie Kauffmann, said in an interview at the newspaper’s Paris headquarters.

          WikiLeaks turned over all of the classified U.S. State Department cables it obtained to Le Monde, El Pais in Spain, The Guardian in Britain and Der Spiegel in Germany. The Guardian shared the material with The New York Times, and the five news organizations have been working together to plan the timing of their reports.

          They also have been advising WikiLeaks on which documents to release publicly and what redactions to make to those documents, Kauffmann and others involved in the arrangement said.

          AP

          another friend commented:

          Especially with the NYT, which coordinated its publishing with the Obama administration, and with other U.S. media playing the echo-chamber it was certain that the first batches of stories and cables were selected and played with a pro-Israel taste.

        • Antidote says:

          yes, I get that, and I previously posted the Spiegel’s explanations on how the documents were prepared for publication, which is more or less in line with what the other papers say. So, basically, we’re dealing with several layers of filtering: 1) the writers of the cables filtering what they saw, heard or reported , 2) the newspapers applying their own filters, influenced by the Obama admin filters 3) unconfirmed conspiracy theories about Israel applying their own filters somewhere between 1) and 2)

        • Kathleen says:

          .

          There is a very interesting interview over at PBS with Zbigniew Brzezinski about the Wikileaks release: (unable to link)

          Go check it out. Worth it

          ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Well, for example, there are references to a report by our officials that some Chinese leaders favor a reunified Korea under South Korea.

          This is clearly designed to embarrass the Chinese and our relationship with them. The very pointed references to Arab leaders could have as their objective undermining their political credibility at home, because this kind of public identification of their hostility towards Iran could actually play against them at home.

          JUDY WOODRUFF: And I want to ask you about that, because the impression is — and I want to turn to Steve Hadley on this as well — Saudi Arabia has not been public about its view, as — and we heard the quote from King Abdullah, that the U.S. should go after or Israel should go after Iran and its nuclear weapons program.

          So, what — what effect could this have now that that’s out there that it’s confirmed?

          STEPHEN HADLEY: Well, actually, I don’t think that’s new.

          And a lot of people have been saying, without going into details and without going into these sort of sensational quotes, that the Arab states are very concerned about Iran, very concerned about the impact of a nuclear Iran. People have been saying that’s one of the odd things about how Israel and the Arab states actually have common cause about their concern about Iran.

          So, I think the fact that there is concern is not new. But, unfortunately, the way it is expressed, with these, you know, very headline-grabbing phrases, that’s what’s unfortunate and that’s what’s embarrassing. And that’s what may make people a little bit less candid in their communications in the future.

          JUDY WOODRUFF: And what is it — what are you worried about with regard to the knowledge that…

          ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: It’s not a question of worry. It’s, rather, a question of whether WikiLeaks are being manipulated by interested parties that want to either complicate our relationship with other governments or want to undermine some governments, because some of these items that are being emphasized and have surfaced are very pointed.

          And I wonder whether, in fact, there aren’t some operations internationally, intelligence services, that are feeding stuff to WikiLeaks, because it is a unique opportunity to embarrass us, to embarrass our position, but also to undermine our relations with particular governments.

          For example, leaving aside the personal gossip about Sarkozy or Berlusconi or Putin, the business about the Turks is clearly calculated in terms of its potential impact on disrupting the American-Turkish relationship.

          JUDY WOODRUFF: Just criticizing the people around…

          ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: And the top leaders, Erdogan and Davutoglu and so forth, are using some really, really, very sharp language.

          JUDY WOODRUFF: But this is 250 — it’s a quarter-of-a-million documents.

          ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Precisely.

          JUDY WOODRUFF: How easy would it be to seed this to make sure that it was slanted a certain way?

          ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Seeding — seeding it is very easy.

          I have no doubt that WikiLeaks is getting a lot of the stuff from sort of relatively unimportant sources, like the one that perhaps is identified on the air. But it may be getting stuff at the same time from interested intelligence parties who want to manipulate the process and achieve certain very specific objectives.

          JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you have that concern?

          STEPHEN HADLEY: Obviously, it would always be a concern.

          The — what we know or what has been said publicly is it looks like a data dump through a pretty junior-level person. So, in terms of that material, it looks like a data dump. Generally, in Washington, I have had the rule that, if there are two explanations, one is conspiracy and one is incompetence, you ought to go with incompetence. You will be right 90 percent of the time.

          (LAUGHTER)

          But you can’t rule out what Dr. Brzezinski talked about. And if not in the past, in terms of how we got here, it would be interesting — and now, having heard this, I suspect there will be some intelligence services thinking about maybe we could seed in these data dumps something that would be useful. You can’t rule it out.

          But it has the appearance at this point of a core dump. For some reason, people get a thrill out of leaking classified documents. It’s never — you know, it’s — whether it’s a sense of self-importance.

          But I think it’s more likely, in terms of the volume, that that’s what’s at work. But you can’t rule out, particularly going forward, the kind of thing Dr. Brzezinski is talking about.

          ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: But, Steve, the other foreign intelligence services don’t have to wait for me to make that suggestion.

          (LAUGHTER)

          I think they can think of it themselves, particularly after the first instance.

          JUDY WOODRUFF: What effect do you think this will have, though, on the willingness of foreign — whether it’s leaders, diplomats — to talk candidly with Americans about their views? Is this going to affect that?

          ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Well, I haven’t seen anything in it that really affects serious issues that would be constrained in direct talks.

          It’s the more sensational impacting items that can have a political significance that I find that more significant. Beyond that, of course, there is a second problem which I think is serious in this otherwise, in my view, non-catastrophic situation. Namely, it’s an absolute scandal that this now is happening again.

          You know, the head of the Bureau of the Budget has issued an instruction to all the heads of departments to the effect that they must safeguard classified information, and any failure is unacceptable. It will not be tolerated.

          Well, this is the second instance. I would like to know what the administration has done since the first to make the second one less likely.

          JUDY WOODRUFF: But a lot of these documents have been in the hands — haven’t they been in the hands of WikiLeaks for some time…

          ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: We don’t know that for a fact.

          JUDY WOODRUFF: … because of — because of this private who is in jail and accused, Army private?

          STEPHEN HADLEY: We don’t know it. And what Dr. Brzezinski is talking about, I think, also shows one of the dilemmas in all of this, is one of the things you like to do is to get information that would be useful to people in the field out to the field. And that means fairly widespread distribution.

          After things like this, there is an effort, usually a reaction, understandable, to narrow down the distribution. And that could have the effect of denying information to people who could use it in their jobs day to day.

          So, just exactly — this is the challenge. How do you try to limit the risk of this kind of activity in going — in a way going forward, while still making this information available to those who can use it, particularly in the field in their day-to-day activities?

          JUDY WOODRUFF: And what about asking diplomats, in essence, to spy? I mean, we have learned now that Secretary Clinton and, before her, Secretary Rice were asking diplomats to collect confidential information, credit cards and so forth, on foreign diplomats.

          You’re smiling.

          ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Well, yes, because, look, diplomats are supposed to be reporting. They’re not supposed to shut their eyes and close their ears.

          JUDY WOODRUFF: But doesn’t that blur the line?

          ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Well, not really. I mean, they’re not asked to do anything that is really a violation of the laws.

          But if they can obtain some information regarding key individuals, I see nothing wrong with it, provided it doesn’t become a major task or a significant assignment.

          JUDY WOODRUFF: And — but, on balance, you’re not worried that this changes the level of candor in diplomatic communities?

          ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Do you think foreigners are not doing that?

          (LAUGHTER)

          STEPHEN HADLEY: No, I’m worried about the heads of state having their communications compromised and how willing they are going to be talk candidly going forward.

          Quite frankly, there’s a difference between getting information from diplomats. Of course, that’s what you want — that’s what you have diplomats out there for, is to get you all kinds of information. And you want to know the background of the people you’re dealing with.

          That’s different than stealing secrets. That’s what your intelligence services do. I don’t think there’s a line here that’s been crossed.

          JUDY WOODRUFF: Stephen Hadley, Zbigniew Brzezinski, thank you both.

          ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Thank you.

          STEPHEN HADLEY: Thank you.

    • marc b. says:

      interesting bit in there somewhere regarding the charges against assange. though widely reported as charges of ‘rape’, the actual charges are for ‘sex by surprise’, or something to that effect, the underlying illegal act being that he engaged in consensual sex but did not wear a prophylactic. one of his accusers apparently alleges that he intentionally ruptured a condom during sex, and another that he engaged in consensual sex but surprised her by not wearing a condom. i see no explanation as to whether she attempted to tell him to go take a cold shower if she didn’t want to engage in unprotected sex.

      • piotr says:

        They have 24 convenience stores in Sweden. Sending the amant to one of them was an option too.

        I suspect that the actual “crime” was “underreporting” of intimate contacts with other women.

        Personally, I am a fan of Roman Polanski, but isn’t it strange how hard it is to extradite Polanski in a much more serious case, and how easy it is to lock Assange?

        • Citizen says:

          I am a fan of Planski’s work, not otherwise. You raise a great point. The answer seems obvious. Nothing strange about it–but you know that.

  3. munro says:

    Ireland a cautionary tale for pro-Palestinian sympathies?
    link to jpost.com

  4. Shmuel says:

    This report, in today’s Haaretz, is interesting, although the word “former” obviously takes some of the sting out of it (especially considering the fact that none of these leaders took a particularly strong stand on Israeli settlement expansion or other violations of international law, while they were actually in power):

    Former European leaders: Sanction Israel over settlement building

    26 former top EU officials, including ex EU chief Solana and former German President Richard von Weizsacker, urge world powers to confront Jerusalem over its refusal to obey international law.

    By Akiva Eldar

    A group of 26 senior former European leaders who held power during the past decade are calling for strong measures against Israel in response to its settlement policy and refusal to abide by international law.

    In an unusual letter sent Thursday to the leadership of the European Union and the governments of the EU’s 27 member states, the signatories, including former heads of state, ministers and heads of European organizations, criticize Israel’s policies.

    Among those signing the letter are the former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, former German President Richard von Weizsacker, former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzales, former president of the EU Commission and former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, and former Irish President Mary Robinson.

    The group drew up a series of recommendations to the current EU leadership during a meeting in London in mid-November.

    The sharply worded document joins a decision by the governments of South American countries, including Brazil and Argentina, to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. In addition, the European Union Council has decided to support the Palestinian Authority’s decision to establish an independent state and put an end to the occupation.

    The letter’s timing is also related to an announcement by the U.S. administration about the failure of the negotiations with Israel on extending the freeze on settlement construction. The former European leaders note that key American figures had suggested to them that the best way to help U.S. President Barack Obama in his efforts to promote peace was to make policy that contradicts U.S. positions come at a cost to Israel.

    The European leaders are backing the Palestinians’ efforts to rally international support for the recognition of an independent Palestinian state as an alternative to the negotiations that have reached an impasse. They note that the Palestinians cannot expect to be able to set up an independent state without international political and economic assistance.

    As such, they are calling on the European Union to play a more effective and active role vis-a-vis the United States, Israel and others. They also want it made clear that a European Union decision to upgrade relations with Israel and other bilateral agreements will be frozen unless Israel freezes settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

    They also propose that the EU announce that it will not accept any unilateral changes to the 1967 border that Israel carried out against international law, and that the Palestinian state would cover an area the same size as the area occupied in 1967. This would also include the establishment of a capital in East Jerusalem.

    The leaders recommend that the EU support only minor land swaps on which the two sides agree.

  5. VR says:

    I am amazed at all of the surprise, showing once again that people just have no idea of the difference between rhetoric and reality, and hence live in a fantasy world. By accepting the world scenario given to you (by those who “know whats best for you”) you can exist in a cave and imagine what the real world is like (the one we have allowed) and make comments about the shadows on the wall. Than when a light shines in all can sit there are say “I am so shocked and surprised, I don’t understand this” etc. If all else fails write about it here, but propose nothing that moves out of the prefabricated paradigm.

  6. link to 213.251.145.96
    SECRET//NOFORN

    Israeli officials explained that they were going through an unprecedented period of calm due to the deterrent effect of Operation CAST LEAD

    Quiet on the Northern Border
    —————————-
    ¶16. (S) Israeli officials remain pleased with the “quiet” nature of its northern border — something they attribute to the deterrent effect Israel has built up following OPERATION CAST LEAD and the 2006 war in Lebano.

    General Baidatz argued that it would take Iran one year to obtain a nuclear weapon and two and a half years to build an arsenal of three weapons. By 2012 Iran would be able to build one weapon within weeks and an arsenal within six months. (COMMENT: It is unclear if the Israelis firmly believe this or are using worst-case estimates to raise greater urgency from the United States)