When the U.S. government began serially apologizing to various nations around the world, including Israel, about what was to come from the Wikileaks dump, I knew something juicy was in the offing. And the materials don’t disappoint. I’d say though, rather than providing lightning flash revelations, they merely deepen our understanding of how the relationship works and what these guys say behind closed doors.
Here are some fascinating memos. This one dated October 31, 2008, in particular is a bit of a jaw-dropper. Usually, diplomats maintain a strict separation between their professional work and spying. The CIA does the latter and diplomats concentrate on foreign policy matters. Apparently, no longer. A memo from the Rice-era State Department, which euphemistically notes that its contents call for assisting in compiling “biographical information” on Palestinians, calls for U.S. personnel to report credit card, frequent flier account numbers, and work schedule to their superiors in Washington:
¶2. (S/NF) State biographic reporting - including on Palestinians: ¶A. (S/NF) The intelligence community relies on State reporting officers for much of the biographical information collected worldwide. Informal biographic reporting via email and other means is vital to the community's collection efforts and can be sent to the INR/B (Biographic) office for dissemination to the IC. State reporting officers are encouraged to report on noteworthy Palestinians as information becomes available. ¶B. (S/NF) When it is available, reporting officers should include as much of the following information as possible: office and organizational titles; names, position titles and other information on business cards; numbers of telephones, cell phones, pagers and faxes; compendia of contact information, such as telephone directories (in compact disc or electronic format if available) and e-mail listings; internet and intranet "handles", internet e-mail addresses, web site identification-URLs; credit card account numbers; frequent flyer account numbers; work schedules, and other relevant biographical information.
It also calls for reporting:
--Details of travel plans such as routes and vehicles used by Palestinian Authority leaders and HAMAS members.
It’s also rather shocking to find the U.S. concerned with, and seeking intelligence about this:
--Information on illegal weapons transactions with Israelis.
And it’s no wonder that during the paranoid reign of Dick Cheney, the U.S. administration told its Middle East diplomats to watch out for this:
--Indications of interest by Palestinian terrorist groups in the acquisition or use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons...
The U.S. government appears greatly concerned about Israel’s capabilities to beg, borrow or steal top-secret U.S. technology. It asks diplomats to report on:
--Plans and efforts to acquire US export-controlled telecommunications equipment and technology. --Plans and efforts to export or transfer state-of-the art telecommunications equipment and technology. --Details about information repositories associated with radio frequency identification (RFID)-enabled systems used
This February 26, 2009 account of a meeting between Congress member Benjamin Cardin and Bibi Netanyahu after national elections but before he became prime minister, reveals the latter’s grandiosity concerning the “Iranian threat:”
Netanyahu described a nuclear Iran as the greatest threat facing Israel, and urged...a viable military option to confront a problem that he said threatened the region and could prove a "tipping point" in world history...According to Netanyahu, if Iran develops a nuclear weapon capability it will "topple the peace process" and "change the history of the world."Netanyahu complained that Iran's "tentacles" were choking Israel, and that a new one grew back whenever one was cut off. Netanyahu charged that Iran was developing nuclear weapons with the express purpose of wiping out Israel...
Interesting too is this passage, in which Bibi confuses Christian evangelical millenialism with Persian Muslim theology about which he clearly knows nothing:
Netanyahu described the Iranian regime as crazy, retrograde, and fanatical, with a Messianic desire to speed up a violent "end of days."
In the following passage, Bibi reveals his disdain for the concept, widely accepted in the international community, of a return to 1967 borders in exchange for peace. Those who claim the Israeli PM accepts a two state solution should reconcile that belief with this:
...According to Netanyahu - withdrawing to the 1967 borders...would "get terror, not peace"
Here is more about the sham peace that Bibi envisions offering the Palestinians:
Once the Palestinian Authority develops into a real partner it will be possible to negotiate an agreement over territory, settlements and "refined" Palestinian sovereignty without an army or control over air space and borders.
What he’s describing isn’t a country, but a Bantustan.
Netanyahu, in this portion of the memo, reveals that there is indirect trade between Israel and Iraq facilitated through Jordan. Considering that Iraq supposedly has an ironclad ban on trade with Israel in place, if true, this claim is fascinating:
Pointing to what he described as strong but unpublicized trade between Haifa port and Iraq via Jordan, he suggested assembly points could be set up in the West Bank for some goods, which would create thousands of jobs.
It should also be noted that Israel had imported Iranian oil until recently despite Israel’s supposedly ironclad ban on such commerce. All of this indicates the level of hypocrisy that accompanies solemn ideological pronouncements by leaders, whether in Tel Aviv or Baghdad.
A November 16, 2009 memo concerning a high level meeting between U.S. diplomats and senior Israeli military-intelligence confirms that the IDF repeats the same nonsense in such private sessions as it does publicly:
Israeli officials explained that they were going through an unprecedented period of calm due to the deterrent effect of Operation CAST LEAD...
And more nonsense from the defense ministry chief of military intelligence analysis (keep in mind we are now precisely one year from the date of this meeting):
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.
Amos Gilad, in this passage, shows the proper level of disingenuousness by actually claiming that Middle Eastern countries will clamor for their own nuclear weapons if Iran gets one, rather than from fear of Israel having one:
Amos Gilad explained his view of the repercussions of an Iranian nuclear capability stating that it would give Iran a free hand in supporting "HAMAStan" in Gaza and "Hezbollahstan" in Lebanon. Gilad also argued that Saudi Arabia would definitely react to a nuclear Iran by obtaining a weapon (with Pakistani assistance) and Egypt would almost certainly follow.
Someone will have to explain to me how Iran having a nuclear weapon will embolden its policies regarding Hezbollah and Hamas. Would it threaten to use its bomb to support its proxies in these countries? It just doesn’t make sense.
In this passage, the Israeli military brass argue that despite the undermining of the PA security apparatus that occurs when the IDF conducts anti-terror incursions in the West Bank, it must continue to do so…for the sake of Jordan!! I kid you not:
...They [the Israelis] stated that if Israel allowed a weak and untrained security force to take over in the West Bank in the short term, the result will be deterioration of the Israel-Jordan relationship over the long term. The prospect of poor Israeli-Jordanian relations, according to Amos Gilad, is unacceptable, and would result in the loss of "strategic depth" for Israel.
How ending Israeli disruption of Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank would disrupt Israel’s relations with Jordan is a mystery beyond me. The fact that a senior Israeli general would pose this nonsense in a meeting with high level American officials shows both Israel’s delusions and its disrespect for the intelligence of their U.S. interlocutors.
The following exchange shows that the Americans and Israeli are talking past each other, the former with naiveté and the latter with utter cynicism:
He [assistant U.S. defense secretary] asked if Israel had made any headway in tems of an information operations campaign to better communicate with the people of Gaza. Israeli officials offered very little in the way of a communications strategy or long-term vision for the territories, but reinforced Israel's core belief that HAMAS has only sinister motives, and that any attempt Fatah might make to improve its standing in Gaza would only be met with HAMAS opposition...Ambassador Vershbow sought further clarification on this point, querying Israeli officials over the level of public support for HAMAS. Specifically, the ASD asked if there was any way to undermine support for HAMAS vis-a-vis the peace process. Amos Gilad responded simply by saying that one of Israel's biggest concerns is the atmosphere created by disjointed peace talks. Specifically, Gilad stated that political promises of peace, unification, and reconciliation -- concepts that are never realized -- are only resulting in a climate of uncertainty that is unhealthy. On this matter, Gilad mentioned that Egypt's role in pushing reconciliation is not helpful and often counterproductive
The U.S. projects a pragmatic interest in combatting Hamas through a public diplomacy campaign, to which the Israelis say: why waste your time? Israel clearly argues for continued Palestinian fragmentation and divisiveness as a policy goal, a losing long-term proposition if ever there was one.
In this exchange on the Goldstone Report, the Israeli MOD’s director general sells the Yanks a bill of goods. Not sure how making 300,000 calls to Palestinians warning them to get out of Dodge constitutes an “extraordinary step to mitigate civilian casualties,” when inhabitants had either already abandoned their homes or could not do so due to the fact that the IDF shot virtually anything that moved on the streets:
In bringing up the Goldstone Report, DG Buchris emphasized that the Government of Israel took extraordinary steps to mitigate civilian casualties, despite HAMAS's deliberate use of civilians as human shields. He stated that the IDF made over 300,000 phone calls to alert civilians before bombing legitimate military targets. He also compared Israeli operations in Gaza to U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and stated that Israel would do whatever was necessary to protect its population. In response, ASD Vershbow recalled U.S. support for Israel in handling of the Goldstone report, and offered to share U.S. experience in investigating incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan as the GOI considered whether to conduct an additional investigation.
I’m not clear whether Vershbow’s “offer” in the last sentence is one to help Israel avoid serious investigation of Cast Lead abuses (since U.S. investigations of our own abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan have failed miserably); or whether this constitutes what he believes is a serious offer to help Israel do the right thing. If the latter, it’s a woefully naïve offer.
In this passage, Amos Gilad seems to be conjuring a total fiction:
Gilad also noted that Turkey wanted to improve its relationships with Iran and asserted that it had made some very aggressive plans recently to support HAMAS.
To give you a sense of how almost eager Israel appears to be to engage in a pre-emptive srike that would surely spark a war among Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Israel, read this warning levelled by the Israeli MOD’s chief intelligence analyst:
Israeli officials have major concerns over developments within Hezbollah -- specifically, its relationship with Syria and Iran. General Baidatz spoke of this relationship and drew attention to the existing supply of Fateh-110 long-range missile that Iran sent to Syria. Israeli officials believe these missiles are destined for Hezbollah. According to Baidatz and others, if the delivery were to occur, this would significantly alter Israel's calculus. Under such a scenario, the looming question for Israeli policymakers then becomes: "to strike or not to strike."
In other words, a top Israeli intelligence analyst is warning the Americans that if Syria supplies a particular rocket to Hezbollah the IDF would pre-emptively attack Hezbollah and in doing so likely spark major hostilities.
In a different meeting of the same individuals as above, Amos Gilad again makes a claim I’ve never heard before:
He noted that rockets from Lebanon can now cover the entire territory of Israel…
I’d like to know on what basis he makes this claim. And even if true, you’d think it might make Israel MORE eager to negotiate a settlement with Syria, Hezbollah’s sponsor. This appears not to be the case as Israel prefers to complain to the Americans about the military threats it faces from its enemies while doing nothing to resolve the disputes themselves.
This colloquy reveals that high-level Israeli officials are not above lying outright to their American interlocutors:
[U.S. diplomat Tom] Goldberger…questioned whether more commercial and humanitarian goods could be allowed through the Gaza border crossings. Gilad strongly stated that there were no limits on commercial goods through the border crossings.
This is such a bald-faced lie that one wonders whether the notetaker at the meeting misunderstood something. Can Gilad really believe anyone would fall for such bulls(&t?
In this memo dated November 18, 2009, IDF officers (including Amos Gilad) and ministry of defense senior officials (including the director general of the ministry) ask for a waiver that would allow Israelis with dual-citizenship to have the same access to sensitive U.S. military technology that a U.S. citizen would have. As you read this, think of Jonathan Pollard, Ben Ami Kadish and any number of other Israeli spies who had/ve dual citizenship:
Dual Citizenship Issues ----------------------- ¶9. (S) The GOI raised the issue of dual citizenship within the context of access to sensitive technology. U.S. participants acknowledged Israeli concerns, noting that the issue is being worked at the highest levels of the USG to reach consensus on how to proceed. The GOI recommended obtaining a waiver similar to the relationship from which Canada or Australia benefit.
No telling what sorts of mischief this waiver would allow. What’s most chutzpadik is the notion that Israel should be treated to the same waiver that Canadian and Australian dual-citizens receive, as if Israel has as close and friendly relations with the U.S. as those countries. Don’t forget that the U.S. Justice Department ranks Israel third among foreign nations in terms of the intensity of its espionage operations in the U.S.
Regarding worsening relations between Israel and Turkey, six months before the Mavi Marmara fiasco Israel was noticing Turkey wasn’t returning the love:
Turkey ------ ¶10. (S) The GOI raised the current direction the Government of Turkey has taken toward Syria and Iran -- and away from Israel. Israeli participants argued that Turkey has been supportive of Hamas in Gaza while pursuing a more "Islamic" direction with the goal of becoming a regional superpower. The GOI argued that the Turkish military is losing its ability to influence government decisions and strategic direction. After this past year, GOI participants said they have a "bad feeling" about Turkey. The GOI noted that the Israel Air Force (IAF) Commander in the past wanted to speak to the Turkish Air Force Commander, but his Turkish counterpart declined.
One wonders, given Israel’s awareness of the deterioration of relations (“they have a ‘bad feeling’”) why it didn’t act more cautiously in its attack on the Mavi Marmara. Did it, by then, not give a crap about relations with Turkey believing they were a lost cause anyway? Or did someone in the Israeli navy f&*k up big-time and not realize what a disaster was in store given the means they chose to subdue the relief ship?
As noted above, the Israeli are not above dissimulation in their attempts to blow smoke up the U.S.’ read end. A mere two months (the memo is dated July 26, 2007) before Israel attacked Syria’s alleged nuclear reactor (an act of aggression which the Syrian’s did not respond to), Dagan lies directly to the face of a Bush’s Homeland Security advisor in this meeting:
Dagan echoed other reports that Syria expects an Israeli attack this summer, and has raised its level of readiness. Despite the fact that Israel has no intention of attacking, said Dagan, the Syrians are likely to retaliate over even the smallest incident, which could lead to quick escalation.