cast lead - AFP - November 29 2010
Palestinian civilians and medics running to safety during an Israeli strike in Beit Lahia during Operation Cast Lead in 2009. Photo by AFP
Text size

Israel had tried to coordinate Operation Cast Lead with Egypt and Fatah, offering to allow its neighbor and the Palestinian faction to take control of Gaza after an Israeli defeat of Hamas, according to U.S. State Department documents released last night by WikiLeaks.

Numerous news outlets yesterday published the contents of hundreds of thousands of State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks. Some were labeled "secret" and contain American assessments of allies and adversaries alike.

According to a telegram tagged "confidential" by then-deputy U.S. ambassador Luis Moreno, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a U.S. congressional delegation last year that Israel tried to coordinate its activities prior to Operation Cast Lead with Egypt, as well as with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Barak referred to the Palestinian Authority as "weak" and "lacking self-confidence," the telegram said.

"He explained that the GOI [government of Israel] 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," the cable read. "Not surprisingly, Barak said, the GOI received negative answers from both."

The revelations indicate that Israel, the PA and Egypt were in contact before Israel launched its offensive in Gaza. Reports had mentioned "dialogue" between Israel and its neighbors during the operation.

Some documents from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv that were revealed last night concerned diplomatic activity during Ehud Olmert's government. According to one cable, dated January 8, 2007, then-U.S. envoy Richard Jones described the trio of Prime Minister Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Amir Peretz as wracked by "dysfunction." This was before the Winograd Commission's interim report on the Second Lebanon War.

"Madam Secretary, internal tensions among GOI leaders have intensified since your last visit and have reached the point that there appears to be little coordination or even dialogue among the key decision makers," Jones wrote in a cable to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was scheduled to make a visit to the region shortly afterward. "We will need to be sensitive to perceptions that we are favoring one faction over another."

He added: "The divisions at the top here are part of an increasingly gloomy public mood, with a new corruption allegations making headlines virtually daily, and a growing sense of political failure despite Israel's strong economy and a sustained success rate in thwarting suicide attacks."

The former ambassador also alluded to Livni's rising popularity, noting: "FM Tzipi Livni is frustrated by Olmert's continued refusal to coordinate closely." And he wrote: "Livni's policy adviser has confirmed to us that she has engaged in her own discrete discussions with Palestinians, but very much in an exploratory mode ... Livni told Senators [John] Kerry and [Christopher] Dodd that she doubted that a final status agreement could be reached with Abu Mazen [Abbas], and therefore the emphasis should be on reforming Fatah so that it could beat Hamas at the polls."

Another cable dated July 26, 2007 reported on a meeting between Mossad chief Meir Dagan and a visiting American official.

"Departing from official GOI policy, Dagan expressed his personal opinion that after more than a decade of trying to reach a final status agreement with the Palestinians, 'nothing will be achieved,'" the cable read. "Only Israeli military operations against Hamas in the West Bank prevent them from expanding control beyond Gaza, lamented Dagan, without which Fatah would fall."