The Day In Israel: Mon Nov 29th, 2010

Despite the concern in Israeli circles before the release of the secret embassy cables on Wikileaks yesterday, one of the big positives to come out of it has been confirmation that Arab states – and not only Israel – have been urging for an attack on Iran.

abdullah ahmadinejadKing Abdullah of Saudi Arabia repeatedly exhorted the United States to “cut off the head of the snake” by launching military strikes to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables.

A copy of the cable dated April 20, 2008, was published in the New York Times website on Sunday after being released by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. The classified communication between the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and Washington showed the Saudis feared Shi’ite Iran’s rising influence in the region, particularly in neighboring Iraq.

The United States has repeatedly said that the military option is on the table, but at the same time U.S. military chiefs have made clear they view it as a last resort, fearing it could ignite wider conflict in the Middle East.

The April 2008 cable detailed a meeting between General David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in the Middle East, and then U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and King Abdullah and other Saudi princes.

At the meeting, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir “recalled the King’s frequent exhortations to the U.S. to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program,” the cable said.

“He told you to cut off the head of the snake,” Jubeir was reported to have said.

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Britain’s Guardian newspaper, one of a number of publications to have had access to the leaked diplomatic cables, said the communications also showed that other Arab allies have secretly agitated for action against Tehran over its disputed nuclear program.

The Guardian quotes documents that show officials in Jordan and Bahrain “openly calling for Iran’s nuclear program to be stopped by any means, including military.” The British daily also says leaders in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt called Iran “evil,” and an “existential threat” which “is going to take us to war.”

Another cable, sent from the U.S. Embassy in Manama, Bahrain, on Nov. 4, 2009, detailed a meeting between Petraeus and King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, whose kingdom is the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth fleet. Like Saudi Arabia it is a Sunni Muslim-ruled kingdom.

King Hamad argued “forcefully for taking action to terminate (Iran’s) nuclear program, by whatever means necessary,” the cable said.

“That program must be stopped,” he was quoted as saying. “The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.”

This confirms what Israeli officials have been saying all along: a nuclear Iran is not just a threat to the Jewish state but is a threat to the entire region.

Meanwhile, I would like to remind you that you can view a summary of all Israel-related cables here.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

6:10PM: Sprung!

There were never any actual consultations between us and the Israelis before the Gaza war, a top aid to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday, refuting a WikiLeaks cable that claimed otherwise.

One of the documents included in the over 250,000 diplomatic cables between the United States and its allies which were leaked on Sunday said that Israel tried to coordinate Operation Cast Lead with both Fatah and Egypt.

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Top Abbas aid Saeb Erekat denied that Israel had notified the Palestinian Authority of the war before it happened.

“We knew about the war because the Israelis were saying there was going to be a war,” Erekat said.

Several months before the fighting broke out, Abaas asked Israel’s then-prime minister, Ehud Olmert, not to go to war, Erekat said. Abbas told him “he would not go to Gaza on an Israeli tank,” Erekat added.

He said the exchange took place in a face-to-face meeting that he himself attended.

Aussie Dave’s Rules of the Middle East Conflict #77:  If Saeb Erekat is moving his lips, he’s lying.

5:40PM: Separated at birth?

4:30PM: Photo of the day:

Amish wall

If you think this is a photo of a group of bearded Jews at the Western Wall, think again.

Background:

Representatives of the Amish community from the United States and Switzerland paid a visit to the Western Wall on Saturday night, where they asked the Jewish people’s forgiveness for their group’s silence during the Nazi extermination of Jews in the Holocaust.

Part of what made the visit special was that the Amish, a sect of the Mennonite Church that largely rejects modern technology, do not normally use contemporary forms of transportation such as the aircraft on which they made the journey to the Holy Land.

But according to an announcement issued by the office of Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, with whom the group met, the Amish delegates saw great importance in coming to Israel and expressing their contrition, as well as declaring their unreserved support of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

The delegation members stressed that they were neither seeking any kind of gesture from the Jewish people nor looking to proselytize – only to support Israel for the simple reason that in the past they hadn’t.

Rabinovitch was presented with various tokens at a ceremony in the Hasmonean chamber, including a parchment with a request for forgiveness in the name of the entire Amish community, along with a commitment that from now on, it would loudly voice its support of the Jewish people, especially in the wake of the expressions of hatred by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his extensions.

 The photo reminds me of this scene from the Frisco Kid:

2:54PM: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan isn’t a mere jerk.

He’s a terrorist supporter.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that “nobody can think that Hizbullah has a connection to the assassination of [former Lebanese prime minister] Rafik Hariri” Lebanese daily A-Safir reported Monday.

In a conversation with reporters on his way back to Turkey after his last visit to Lebanon he addressed his meeting with the Hizbullah and the issue of the International Court and said that “Hizbullah says that it is the spirit of resistance in Lebanon and even goes as far as to use the term ‘martyr al-Hariri.”

“No one can think that Hibullah has a connection to the murder. The organization even supports a Syria-Saudi Arabia initiative to ease the tension. “

Yet another reason why I’m a huge fan of this horse.

1:45PM: Is the Jerusalem Post trying to tell us something about who they wish was Israel’s PM?

livni wikileak

Naa. They probably just screwed up again.

1:40PM: According to former ambassador, Itamar Rabinovich, the US spied on the Israeli embassy in Washington.

The United States broke an Israeli code and tapped the secure phone line in the Israeli Embassy in Washington without Jerusalem’s knowledge.

That revelation about Israeli-American relations did not come from WikiLeaks, but rather from former ambassador to Washington Itamar Rabinovich, in a radio interview yesterday. 

Rabinovich did not say exactly when the code was broken and when Israel found out about it, but it was understood from his remarks that the tap started after his 1993-1996 tenure in the U.S. capital and was discovered only years later.

The former envoy said that every staffer at the Israeli Embassy in Washington is warned about possible leaks of conversations held in the building and on ordinary phone lines, but also on the secure phone line.

After the Americans broke the code, Israel’s deepest policy secrets were apparently exposed.

“Every ‘juicy’ telegram was in danger of being leaked,” Rabinovich told Army Radio’s Razi Barkai. “We sent very few of them. Sometimes I came to Israel to deliver reports orally. The Americans were certainly tapping the regular phone lines, and it became clear that in later years they were also listening to the secure line.”

Wiretapping, code-breaking and intercepting of messages is the province of the National Security Agency. It is no secret that despite intelligence cooperation and an understanding between the two countries that they will not spy on each other, both Israel and the United States have been involved in such actions.

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As far as is known, American spies have not been caught by Israel’s intelligence services, although there have been instances when U.S. intelligence operatives contacted Israeli citizens and explored the possibility of recruiting them.

The Americans have also used their military attaches to gather information.

1:34PM: Mike Huckabee speaking to Danny Danon, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, about Obama and airport security.

10:18AM: Iran’s Press TV (otherwise known as the employer of George Galloway and Lauren Booth) has discovered the ‘T’ word:

An Iranian academic has been killed and another university professor and his wife wounded in two separate car explosions in Tehran.

Yet unknown terrorists exploded the cars of Doctor Majid Shahriari and Professor Fereydoun Abbasi in separate places on Monday morning, IRNA reported.

10:15AM: Two Iranian university professors have reportedly been targeted in identical bomb attacks this morning, with one being killed, and the fate of the second one still unknown.

As you probably already guessed, they did not teach English Literature.

Two Iranian university professors were targeted by assassins in separate but identical bomb attacks in Tehran on Monday, killing at least one of them, according to local press reports.

An Iranian state TV’s website said one victim, a nuclear scientist, was killed, while there were conflicting reports of the fate of the second man.

The Fars television service said bombs were attached to both victims’ cars by assassins on motorcycles. No further details were given on the identities of the attackers.

Fars accused agents of the United States and Israel of being behind the killings.

State broadcaster ISNA further named the two victims as Majid Shahriari and Fereydoun Abbasi, both professors at Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti university.

Shahriari was killed, while Abbasi and his wife were injured and hospitalized, ISNA said.

In January, another Iranian nuclear scientist, Professor Massoud Ali-Mohammadi was also killed.

State media said at the time that Ali-Mohammadi was killed by a remote controlled bomb strapped to a motorcycle.

Then too, Iran accused Israel and the West of the attack on a “committed and revolutionary” scientist.

But an opposition website, Jaras, said Ali Mohhamadi was an opposition supporter who backed moderate candidate Mirhossein Mousavi in a disputed election, which plunged Iran into turmoil in mid-2009. 

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David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media