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Sneh. American support
Photo: Gil Yohanan
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Sneh: Leaks a blow to democracy
Former deputy defense minister not surprised by American appreciation for him revealed in secret documents, but concerned over US level of confidentiality
The confidential US documents leaked by the WikiLeaks website have embarrassed quite a few people mentioned in the memos, mostly in a negative context. But this does not apply to former Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, who was praised by the former American ambassador in one of the secret documents.

 

 

Sneh disappeared from the Israeli political arena after the 2009 elections, but it seems the United States has taken note of quite a few of his accomplishments. His name was mentioned in a confidential memo sent by then-US Ambassador Richard Jones to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

 

"Despite his political woes, (former Defense Minister Amir) Peretz has proven himself a serious partner in our efforts to implement the Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) and more generally in a slow but steady push by the MOD to force a reluctant IDF to accept steps to reduce barriers to Palestinian movement and to revive the Palestinian economy," the then-ambassador wrote.

 

"Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, who will likely accompany Peretz to your meeting, has emerged as the point man for these efforts."

 

Jones was under the impression that "Sneh shares Peretz's conviction that Israel's security stranglehold on the Palestinians is 'winning the battle but losing the war,' but

Sneh, who in a decades-long career served as a military governor of the West Bank, commanded an elite combat unit, and took part in the famed Entebbe raid, also has both an intimate knowledge of the Palestinians and a combat commander's credibility with the IDF that Peretz sorely lacks."

 

Talking to Ynet on Monday after the compliments were made public, Sneh said he was not surprised by the document.

 

"When someone says good things about you, you shouldn't respond," he said, smiling. "We had a few meeting with Condoleezza Rice, and she expressed her appreciation. I'm glad that at least the Americans are supportive of me. When I became Peretz's deputy, I was put in charge of the territories. What the report says must be correct, but we won that praise thanks to hard work."

 

Sneh, who served as deputy defense minister from 2006 to 2007 and was replaced after Ehud Barak was appointed defense minister, said that "at the time there was a different reality in which I was the main address for the American administration at the government and Defense Ministry. Those who wanted to talk business in terms of the territories had to contact me."

 

'Diplomats will have to think twice'

The former deputy defense minister was surprised, however, by the leaked documents' confidentiality level. "We spoke with (the Americans) very openly, and as is the custom with strategic partners – on some issues we revealed our abilities. This issue casts a shadow over the contact with many countries which are the Americans' partners. No one wants to see their estimates, abilities and intelligence exposed this way."

 

Sneh estimated that the leaks would throw Washington into a turmoil, which would be felt for a long time. "Diplomacy is based on confidential discussions. About 95% of what is said appears in the newspaper the next day, but there is still 5% which remains confidential. This material must be protected. This is a blow to the Americans' ability to engage in discreet diplomacy."

 

According to Sneh, "The most serious thing happening here is that the foreign ministry of the only superpower has lost its ability to conduct a quiet, secret and discreet foreign policy. Everything that has been published and that I have read was basically known to me. Things other people said did not really come as news to me either, and yet this is a very embarrassing situation."

 

Most of the discussed documents are not directly linked to Israel, but according to Sneh, "we want a strong US, and what weakens it – will eventually weaken Israel too. Once there is no discreetness, the quality of the talks will drop significantly, because those holding them will have to censor themselves and think twice.

 

"Any way you look at it, this is a blow to democracy too, because once people stop trusting the acceptable channels, they will choose bypasses which are not supervised by the democratic mechanisms."

 

 

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