Benjamin Netanyahu, Dror Artzi
Benjamin Netanyahu attempts to shift the world’s focus away from Israel’s blatant transgressions of international law in a public relations campaign to buy time. Photo by Dror Artzi
Text size

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Obama administration just two weeks after elected to Knesset that he supported the idea of a land exchange and had no desire to govern Palestinian territories, according to a diplomatic cable released by the online whistleblower WikiLeaks on Sunday.

"Netanyahu expressed support for the concept of land swaps, and emphasized that he did not want to govern the West Bank and Gaza but rather to stop attacks from being launched from there," read a February 2009 diplomatic cable describing a meeting between Netanyahu and a delegation led by Senator Benjamin Cardin.

According to the cable, Netanyahu laid out to the U.S. lawmakers a framework for his economic peace plan as the best option for a future peace deal with the Palestinians.

His idea was to begin "rapidly building a pyramid from the ground up" to allow the Palestinian West Bank to develop a strong and independent infrastructure.

Netanyahu presented this program for "economic peace," which he said would improved the quality of life for Palestinians in the West Bank, well before elections. Palestinian officials, however, refused to meet with their Israeli counterparts.

Another cable released earlier this week indicates that Israel tried to coordinate the Gaza war with the Palestinian Authority and that both the PA and Egypt refused to take control of the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.

The whistle-blowing website obtained some 250,000 diplomatic cables between the U.S. and its allies, which Washington had urged the site not to publish.

In a June 2009 meeting between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and a U.S. congressional delegation, Barak claimed that the Israeli government "had consulted with Egypt and Fatah prior to Operation Cast Lead, asking if they were willing to assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas."

"Not surprisingly," Barak said in the meeting, Israel "received negative answers from both."

While similar reports of such attempts to link the PA and Egypt to Israel's war with Hamas had already surfaced in the past, the cable released by WikiLeaks on Sunday represents the first documented proof of such a move.

In the document, Barak also expressed his feeling that "the Palestinian Authority is weak and lacks self-confidence, and that Gen. Dayton's training helps bolster confidence."

The meeting which the cable documents took place just days before U.S. President Barack Obama's Cairo speech, and a few weeks after Netanyahu's first visit to the United States, a visit which revealed the deep differences between Obama and himself.

The cable also refers to what Barak describes as the debate within the Israeli cabinet in regards to a "development of a response to President Obama's upcoming speech in Cairo."