Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation reports on a brewing showdown between Obama’s National Security Advisor, Gen. James Jones and the Clintonites in the State Department over the issue of how hard to press the Israelis for compromise with the Palestinians. The journalist also opines that Jones’ activist approach to peacemaking will rile up the rightist Netanyahu government.
And true to form, Haaretz reports a leaked (and classified) U.S. diplomatic cable which seeks to do further damage to Jones’ reputation:
Several days ago, a classified telegram was received in Jerusalem discussing a meeting between Jones and a European foreign minister. Jones told his European interlocutor that President George W. Bush had avoided actions on the Palestinian question that Israel opposed, but the Obama administration intended to change this practice and become more active. It would not make concessions on matters that Israel had committed to.
“The new administration will convince Israel to compromise on the Palestinian question,” Jones said. “We will not push Israel under the wheels of a bus, but we will be more forceful toward Israel than we have been under Bush.”
Jones is quoted in the telegram as saying that the United States, European Union and moderate Arab states must redefine “a satisfactory endgame solution.”
The U.S. national security adviser did not mention Israel as party to these consultations.
What is especially interesting about this story is the phrase “classified telegram received in Jerusalem.” It’s hard to know what the reporters mean by a “classified telegram.” I wonder whether they’re speaking about a diplomatic cable. If so, then they’re just revealed that either Israeli intelligence obtained a classified U.S. diplomatic document; or that one of Jones’ enemies in the Obama administration leaked the document to the Israelis. And actually both explanations could be true if the document was leaked by someone in our government to an Israeli enabler (i.e. spook or diplomat–or both) who then transferred it to Jerusalem.
UPDATE: A friend wise in the ways of Israel and Washington suggested another credible possibility: that the Israelis gained access to the material via the government of the “European foreign minister.” You may keep this alternative in mind as you read below.
At any rate, the Israelis (and no doubt a newly reenergized Aipac coming off its “vindication” via the dismissal of the Rosen-Weissman Aipac Two case), seem to be colluding to besmirch Gen. Jones as an enemy of the state of Israel. The goal seems to be to raise consciousness among Israel’s “friends” in Washington to the potential “damage” the general could do to Israel if he pushes too hard for things the Netanyahu government wishes not to do.
But let’s ask a basic question: what is wrong with anything Jones said? Nothing. Is there any anti-Israel sentiment expressed? No. Is there a perspective that calls for a break from business as usual and warns the Israelis they no longer will have a free ride? Yes. But will that kill Israel to face a more challenging ally in the Obama administration, one that doesn’t just rubber stamp bilateral policies devised in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem? No.
Regarding the sourcing of this story, in closely reading the Israeli press, I’ve always thought they were entirely too cozy with their sources (which are often the military-intelligence-political elite). Unlike in good U.S. journalism, Israeli reporters seem aligned with their high level sources and not with the interests of their reader or even the story. The source seems the holy grail because he is the meal ticket for future leaks. There is much less of a sense of journalistic rigor or objectivity. Sources are routinely unnamed. This in turn almost guarantees that reporters are sometimes little more than scribes who dutifully publish whatever information the leaker wants in the public domain. The journalist does almost no due diligence, doesn’t think it necessary to put the leak in context or question the motives of the leaker. It can make for shallow journalism.
UPDATE I: Natasha Mozgovaya informs me that her Israel-based colleague, Barak Ravid, obtained the document in Jerusalem, which caused me to re-edit the original version of what follows.
It seems to me that the reporters who wrote this story run the danger of becoming the Judy Miller of the Israeli press corps. The problem as I note above is that the reporters display no willingness to explore why they are being used by Israeli intelligence or other insiders to advance a particularly noxious anti-peace political agenda.