A Quiet Night Alone with Cablegate

Posted on September 3, 2011

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I spent an hour and a half or so perusing the cablegate gate leak tonight, using this great site. Sure, you can download the file, but good luck figuring out how to set up a database of the documents if you lack SQL chops.

I did a search for the Palestinian Authority and probably looked at about fifty or so cables. I then did some media searches to find how that information was interacting today in the real world. In all cases, the cablegate leaks and the media stories amplified one another, giving a more detailed view of one facet of larger issues. Here’s a rundown of what I found that’s worth a mention:

1. Obama/Bush Rebuff Palestinian Authority and US Federal Judge on Terror Lawsuit: In 2007, PA Prime Minister  Fayyad asked DOS and DOJ representatives to suggest dismissal of a suit being brought against the Palestinian Authority by the family of a victim of an alleged terror attack by a Palestinian organization. Fayyad was well aware that it was customary in such suits to give guidance to federal judges regarding foreign policy needs in the process of deciding whether to hear the case. The Bush administration failed to give such guidance, despite the ostensible problems this will cause the PA, and the obvious barriers to foreign policy objectives it could bring [not to mention the ridiculous spectacle of an American suing the Palestinian Authority for terror acts, while being a citizen of a nation in part responsible for the deaths of thousands of Palestinians]. The Obama administration also refused to give guidance of any kind, causing the federal judge hearing the case to excoriate the Obama administration for the unprecedented silence.

2. Use of Diplomatic and Legal Institutions Means War to Israel: There was this nugget, which related the private conversation of an IDF official with the US ambassador, squawking that Israel would view a Palestinian complaint at the International Criminal Court concerning Cast Lead, as an act of “war”. It’s really incredible how almost all of the rudimentary diplomatic venues for solving disputes without violence, when used by Palestinians, are considered acts of indiscriminate violence. Israel has made similar statements about the controversial upcoming bid for UN recognition later this month. Obama echoed this when he linked the UN strategy to Hamas terrorism and denial of Israel’s right to exist in a staccato burst of coded disinformation during a recent speech on the Middle East.

In that regard, I found that Anti War looked at the same cable and read as the basis for Israel’s fears of a successful result at the UN, since the PA could only pursue charges at the ICC if it had the standing of a state, according to the cable. I sincerely doubt that the PA would ever actually take charges to the ICC even if it had an ice cube’s chance in hell of successfully having them heard.

3. Israel Violates its Own Laws and Agreements by Legalizing Illegal Settlement Outposts: Here’s an example of the US embassy in Tel Aviv looking on, while Israel violates its agreements with the US, and apparently the spirit, if not letter of its own laws, regarding the recognition of outposts in the occupied territories. In a cable dated January 2010, the ambassador describes how the state will recognize the outpost Hayovel, and hand over Palestinian land to accommodate it, arguing that the outpost is normal outgrowth of an existing settlement, Eli. The US, neither at that time, nor since, had any objections. A month or so ago, Israel recognized Hayovel as legal and the seizure of land as legitimate, demonstrating how little value it places even on its own laws, and how useless any attempt at negotiations with Israel are.

4. Palestinian Authority Asks US to Help it Get Rid of Pro-Palestinian UN Human Rights Rapporteur: This cable describes a meeting between the Palestinian ambassador and a US official, in which the ambassador pointedly asks for help in getting rid of Richard Falk, the UN Human Rights Rapporteur for Palestine. The PA had made its dislike of Falk well known and had pursued the issue in the UN. But they apparently also went to the US, to see if they could do something about him. The reasons given were that he said mean things about Israel, comparing Cast Lead to Nazi atrocities, and that he wanted to treat Gaza’s Hamas government as if it had a stake in the investigation. This is the same inane group of Palestinian leaders who tried to torpedo the very decent Goldstone Report about Cast Lead in order to see if they could curry favor with Israel. Go team.

5.  Here at the Palestinian Authority, Getting You to Pay Your Israeli Electrical Bill is Job One: Here’s a cable describing how the PA will solve one of its thornier problems. How to get Palestinians to pay for Israeli controlled electricity in the midst of an Israeli occupation that chokes their freedom of movement and their economy. While the PA seems incapable of making even a modicum of gain in securing a resolution to the plight of Palestinians, it seems intent on making sure that they pay 15% more for their Israel-supplied electricity than Israel’s own citizens. As Palestinians understandably balk at the artificially high price and situation, the PA picks up the tab through subsidies, one of the few things it actually does to help Palestinians no doubt. No longer. After a failed attempt to make state services contingent on showing a paid electric bill, the PA plans to create a regulatory agency, and electricity sub-providers, to create regional utility companies and substations. Whereas a city government may feel solidarity with its people, and refuse to force them to pay for electricity from their occupier, private contractors won’t likely hesitate.

Finally, I discovered that there are few leaks regarding Israel before 1999, and that an entire tranche seem to be missing between late August and early November 2000, the period in which the Intifad al Aqsa began. This may be some bug in the cableviewer database I was using, or human error on my part. But it’s quite odd, given that this is supposed to be the full set of cables, and redactions or deletions aren’t to be expected.

Anyway, I suggest you give it a try. Finding something significant and important is just a matter of diligence and interest, if not luck. If nothing else, as these little efforts show, a more global view of the way issues play out and how actors interact with one another emerges. And, obviously, its just plain fascinating.

Correction: There was no link to the cable in question on #4, now fixed.