Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Wikileaks and Israel

This afternoon the first 200 or so out of 251,000 US diplomatic cables were published by & a variety of international news organizations. Of these 220 released cables, nineteen originated from Embassy Tel Aviv. There are over 3100 cables all-told originating from Tel Aviv, most covering a continuous period from December 2004 through February 2010. In other words, less than 1% of the Embassy Tel Aviv-originated cables have been released today. says it will take months to release all the cables. Huh?

Update: Add to the Embassy Tel Aviv cables another 2217 cables from the US Consulate in Jerusalem, the bulk running from April 2005 through February 2010. Not a single cable from the Jerusalem consulate was published today. It is widely known that the Jerusalem Consulate is a kind of separate operation, which has diplomatic responsibilities for the West Bank and, once upon a time, for the Gaza Strip. Nothing for us to analyze, not yet.Out of over 5300 cables in the database coming from either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, exactly 19 "dropped" today. Not even a drop in the bucket.

Anyways, there is nothing particularly newsworthy in the small batch of cables published so far. A great deal of the published cable traffic deals either with Iran's nuclear threat (played up by the Israelis, doubted by the Americans) or with concerns that Israel's QME (Qualitative Military Edge) over its regional adversaries be regularly enhanced. Many of the cables are summaries of discussions held by various visiting congressional delegations with Israeli political and military officials.

Update: Historians are going to have a field day with this shit. Normally this stuff doesn't get declassified for decades. Now it's all available in as close as we have ever gotten to real time. For example, an interesting pattern emerges when comparing the monthly frequency of dispatches emanating from Embassy Tel Aviv and Consulate Jerusalem (assuming the data provided by The Guardian is comprehensive and thorough). Beginning January 2006 and continuing through February 2010, we can compare just how many cables each of these two diplomatic offices sent out. Remember, the Tel Aviv Embassy is the bigger operation, serving the state of Israel. The Jerusalem Consulate is the smaller shop, serving primarily the occupied territories. Here's the data: in 2006 & 2007, only in June and July did the Jerusalem Consulate send more cables than the Tel Aviv Embassy. In 2008 and 2009, the Consulate sent more cables than the Embassy 20 out of 24 months. The Jerusalem Consulate got real busy. Same for the 2 months of 2010. What does it all mean? Take an extreme example: the 2 months of Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in Gaza, December 2008 and January 2009, with a new administration coming into power in Washington in late January. In December 2008 the Embassy sent 57 cables, averaging 2 cables a day. In the same time period, the Consulate sent 68 cables. In January 2009, the Embassy sent 49 cables, the Consulate a whopping 95, a record for cable traffic for either diplomatic office for the entire period covered between 2006-2010.

From cables originating out of other embassies is evidence that other Arab states are greatly concerned about Iran's nuclear threat and intentions, and a correlated queaziness about radical terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. This is a claim I've heard many times before from Israeli government officials - Arab leaders privately are equally if not more fearful of the regimes in Tehran, Gaza City, and South Lebanon but won't say so in public. From the cables, there is complete vindication for this claim.

Interesting tidbit: three of the very few cables from Embassy Tel Aviv outside the December 2004-February 2010 timeline are dated November 5, 1995, the date of Rabin's assassination (so too one cable from Consulate Jerusalem). These 4 cables haven't been released yet.

One hilarious irony: in the abbreviated and acronymed gobbledygook of diplomatic cables, the phrase "government of Israel" is reduced to "GOI". You gotta love it. Not perfect spelling, but close enough.

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