The Palestine Cables: Egyptian VP Suleiman, Israel’s favorite, wants ‘Gaza to go ‘hungry’ but not ‘starve”

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The Israeli establishment is pleased to see that Omar Suleiman, the former head of Egypt’s intelligence services who was recently appointed to be Egypt’s first vice president, is angling to continue the Mubarak regime.  As reports circulate that Hosni Mubarak may step down tonight, examining Suleiman, Mubarak’s presumed successor, seems all the more important.  State Department cables released by WikiLeaks show that Suleiman directs Egypt’s policies on Israel/Palestine, policies that are in line with Israeli goals:   weakening Hamas, continuing the blockade of Gaza and halting Iranian influence. 

In fact, Israel has explicitly voiced that Suleiman–spelled “Soliman” in the diplomatic cables–is their favored choice to assume the helm of the Egyptian presidency once Mubarak is gone.  An August 2008 cable from the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv reads:

[Arab Affairs Adviser David] Hacham was full of praise for Soliman, however, and noted that a “hot line” set up between the MOD and Egyptian General Intelligence Service is now in daily use…Hacham noted that the Israelis believe Soliman is likely to serve as at least an interim President if Mubarak dies or is incapacitated. (Note: We defer to Embassy Cairo for analysis of Egyptian succession scenarios, but there is no question that Israel is most comfortable with the prospect of Omar Soliman.)

Egypt has been Israel’s chief partner in the devastating blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has caused Gaza’s economy to be on the “brink of collapse,” as a UN spokesman put it yesterday.  Suleiman is quoted in a December 2007 cable as wanting the blockade to cause “Gaza to go ‘hungry’ but not ‘starve.'”  80 percent of the people of Gaza rely on UN aid to survive.  

The leaked “Palestine Papers” published by Al Jazeera provide more details on  Suleiman and Egypt’s complicity in the siege.  As Abdullah Al-Arian, writing in Al Jazeera, notes:

Throughout the documents, Suleiman in particular is singled out as the point person whom Israeli and American officials could count on to execute their agenda of dividing the Palestinian factions or pressing the PA for greater concessions…

In early 2007, as the siege on Gaza had crippling consequences on the lives of Palestinians, negotiators complained that Egyptian leaders were duplicitous, speaking publicly in support of allowing goods into Gaza, but in reality, “it remains blocked on the ground …. This is a general problem with the Egyptians”.

An internal report from April 2007 confirms these suspicions. The Agreement on Movement and Access states: “Although there has been political agreement by Omar Suleiman and President Mubarak on allowing exports through, this agreement has never been translated into operational reality.”

Suleiman, and the Mubarak regime, have also been intent on weakening Hamas in the wake of the party being democratically elected in the 2006 Palestinian elections.  The Dec. 2007 cable reports:

In their moments of greatest frustration, Tantawi and Soliman each have claimed that the IDF would be “welcome” to re-invade Philadelphi…Mubarak and his security chiefs viscerally want Hamas “to fail.”

A separate April 2009 cable reports:

On reconciliation, Soliman explained, the ultimate goal was to return the Palestinian Authority to Gaza, as “Gaza in the hands of radicals will never be calm.”

Suleiman’s viewpoint on Iran also lines up with Israeli goals.  An October 2007 cable reports that “Omar Soliman takes an especially hard line on Tehran and frequently refers to the Iranians as ‘devils.’” 

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist and blogger based in New York City. You can read all of ‘The Palestine Cables’ reports here and he blogs on Israel/Palestine and Islamophobia in the United States at Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.


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