After a day of excitement caused by the mountains of official American documents exposed by the website WikiLeaks and the accompanying newspaper reports, a distinction should now be drawn between the appropriate responses to the documents themselves and the overall significance of their publication.
The documents were created, sent and published within a constitutional framework that protects freedom of speech and takes the possibility of their eventual publication into account - either legally and intentionally after some years have passed (through the Freedom of Information Act ), or closer to their composition date due to negligence or even malice. A real democracy knows how to deal with the publication of such material.
And indeed, no great tragedy has occurred. Real tragedies, like Japan's assault on Pearl Harbor or Al-Qaida's strike on Manhattan, happen when state secrets are kept under wraps.
Israelis who still yearn for the glory of the State Department from the early days of the Jewish state, and for the reverence accorded to influential secretaries of state like George Marshall, Dean Acheson, John Foster Dulles and Henry Kissinger, are not up-to-date. Today, the department is isolated from the inner circle of decision-makers in Washington. The president and his advisers (both security and political ), as well as key intelligence and defense officials, are far more important, as are certain influential senators and members of Congress.
Professional diplomats are for the most part couriers and relayers of messages. Their function barely strays from quoting an editorial or sending a cable to department headquarters in Washington's Foggy Bottom neighborhood.
Real, significant secrets are rarely included in these cables, and diplomats are rarely privy to them. What remains is occasionally juicy, such as the character traits of politicians and officials, but rarely earth-shattering or mold-breaking. In the case of U.S.-Israel relations, it seems each side is predisposed to be suspicious that the other side - or even their own - might leak the content of sensitive talks in a bid to either sabotage or constrain them.
Still, the latest developments are welcome: Every leader and official who is supposed to tell his constituents and his nation the truth will now know that the day or hour will come when his secrets will be known - quite aside from the fact that in any case, nothing major can be done without public support. Ultimately, what is made public is more important than what is kept hidden.
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