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For Bibi and Israel, Vindication

Leaks confirm that Iran and Turkey unite it with others

Marc Tracy
November 29, 2010
Prime Minister Netanyahu enjoys his coffee yesterday.(Gali Tibbon - pool/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Netanyahu enjoys his coffee yesterday.(Gali Tibbon - pool/Getty Images)

There is no country that should feel more vindicated by the Wikileaks revelations than Israel. “More and more countries realize that Iran is the central threat, but the countries in the region have a gap because they publicly are attached to the Israeli-Arab conflict,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday. “They realize that the central threat is from Iran and now this has been revealed even though it was known. It can eliminate the theory that Israel is the obstacle to peace and show that we have mutual interests.” As Jerusalem Post’s Yaakov Katz reported, “It would not be an exaggeration to say that WikiLeaks may have done the country a service.”

But not only regarding Iran! The leaks show that U.S. diplomats are nearly as wary of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as Israel is; that Egypt and the Palestinian Authority are hardly more on the side of Hamas in Gaza as Israel is; and that countries in the region perceive the U.S.-Israeli special alliance as a reason to cozy up to Israel in order to gain influence with America. In short, it is Iran, and not the peace process, that is the dominant issue for both Israeli and Arab leaders, and they are therefore more inclined to see eye-to-eye.

Meanwhile, even as embarassing details surfaced about Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi and other foreign leaders, Israeli leaders largely escaped this fate. Maybe they saw the American quietly taking notes at the conference table and decided to hold their tongues? And as for Mossad chief Meir Dagan, it quickly becomes clear that he is one of the most respected advisers in the world, “sought after,” according to Katz, “by almost every senior U.S. official visiting Israel.”

One cable described Erdogan as “exceptionally dangerous” in his outsize imperial ambitions for Turkey—that is, from the American perspective. It also depicts him as being in a largely Islamist bubble. Another quotes Israel’s position on the Turkish leader: “He’s a fundamentalist. He hates us religiously.” The cable doesn’t show that the United States agrees with this assessment, but it does show that this assessment is getting through. The U.S. diplomat’s response: “Our discussions with contacts both inside and outside of the Turkish government on Turkey’s deteriorating relations with Israel tend to confirm Levy’s thesis that Erdogan simply hates Israel.”

In one of the most underrated classified cables, a diplomat writes, “The Gulf Arabs believe in Israel’s role because of their perception of Israel’s close relationship with the U.S. but also due to their sense that they can count on Israel against Iran. ‘They believe Israel can work magic,’ Hadas commented.”

Peace process-wise, we see just how strong is the Israel-Fatah-Egypt alliance when it comes to countering Hamas—again, not something that should shock, but something that does nonetheless confirm the centrality of Iran to the region, puts Arab leaders in an awkward spot, and leaves Israeli leaders with the grin of vindication. Fatah and Egypt, a cable reveals, were much more fully briefed on Israel’s then-imminent invasion of Gaza as part of Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 than was previously known. In fact, they were offered to contribute, and possibly to take over Gaza afterward; unsurprisingly, they rejected this offer, presumably because it is difficult for them to publicly be seen as siding with Israel against pretty much everybody. But it is not exactly breaking news that, say, Fatah considers Hamas an enemy, or that Egypt desires a blockade of Gaza at least as much as Israel. (A spokesperson for Palestinian President Abbas denied the above reports this morning. All I can say is that the reports are eminently plausible and jibe with things we independently know, and that it is politically difficult for Abbas to be seen as siding with Israel against Hamas over something like Cast Lead.)

Relatedly, we learn that the Egyptian intelligence chief pledged to Israel to intensely counter Hamas wherever he could.

Does Netanyahu truly believe, in his heart of hearts, that a peace deal with the Palestinians is possible? Many of his critics allege that, contrary some of his more optimistic rhetoric, he does not. Then again, one cable reports that Tzipi Livni, the opposition leader and head of the centrist Kadima Party, told U.S. officials that a Palestinian deal is not possible. Which could say something about the actual possibility of such a deal, and definitely says something about how any Israeli leader is liable to view the actual possibility of such a deal.

Can Netanyahu be trusted? Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak—who has reigned via “emergency rule” for the past three decades—thinks no, though he does also find Bibi “elegant and charming.” Mubarak adds: “I told him this personally.” Mensch!

We learn that the Gulf states do indeed perceive an Iranian bomb as something that would prompt them to develop their own nuclear weapons progams as a deterrent.

We see exactly how U.S. and Israeli lobbying put the kibosh to Russia’s planned sale of a sophisticated air-defense system to Iran (those long-range North Korean missiles probably helped the anti-sale case).

We learn that Israel is against negotiating with Syria until it is more fully decoupled from Iran.

We learn that Russia views Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who was born in what is now Moldova, as “one of its own.” If you have ever met a Russian Jew, this will not shock you.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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