Ron Ben-Yishai

Assessing the damages

Op-ed: Ron Ben-Yishai explains damages caused by slew of WikiLeaks revelations

Part 2 of analysis


The information published by WikiLeaks Sunday can be divided into three categories from an American and Israeli perspective: Damaging, embarrassing, and beneficial.


The most damaging information is the detailed renports about talks and agreements between US envoys and senior Saudi and Gulf officials. The documents reveal to an unprecedented extent how fearful these Mideastern leaders are of Iran and that they, rather than Israel, head the efforts to push the US into a military strike that would eliminate Tehran’s nuclear program.


This revelation is beneficial to Israel in terms of US and Western public opinion, yet it greatly damages these Arab regimes.


The US also sustained great damage by the revelation of the fact that it has a senior source in Beijing who confirmed that the Chinese government was behind the online breach of Google’s computers. Also damaging is the fact that Washington has a “mole” in the German government – an important friend and US ally.


Substantial damage was caused to Israel and the US in the Iranian context as result of the revelations about the five clauses proposed by Mossad Chief Meir Dagan to the Bush regime in 2007 in order to torpedo Iran’s nuclear program. While these steps had already been reported in the media, the revelation that Dagan suggested to topple the Iranian regime via the activation of students, reformers, and large ethnic group is harmful.


This revelation provides leaders of the Iranian regime with a powerful propaganda weapon and grants them political justification to brutally repress any legitimate protest movement in their country.


Yet overall, when scrutinizing Israel’s assessments on Iran as exposed by WikiLeaks, they appear to have been quite accurate for their time, while the US intelligence community underestimated Iran’s ability to enrich uranium and develop nuclear weapons. Those closely familiar with the information know that Israel did not cry wolf.


Today, it’s clear to Washington too that Iran accumulated enough low-grade enriched uranium and enough know-how on building nuclear warheads to enable it to produce two or three atomic bombs. The question now is when would Khamenei and Ahmadinejad decide to realize these nuclear and military assets. And so, the damage caused to the credibility of Israeli politicians in US public opinion as result of the skeptical remarks of US diplomats is limited, if at all.


Can such leak happen here?

Elsewhere, the Russia-Israel ties were damaged as result of the revelations of the “drones in exchange for S-300” deal concocted by Israel’s Defense Ministry with the Kremlin. Senior security official Amos Gilad told the Americans about the deal in the framework of the relationship of trust between Israel and the US. Now, the Russians would be careful next time before cutting sensitive deals with Israel.


The “embarrassing information” category includes all the unflattering remarks made by US diplomats about world leaders ranging from Pakistan to Europe and Libya. These colorful remarks, which the media gladly highlighted, will apparently force Washington to replace some of the diplomats who still serve in the countries in question. This will also force the Administration to invest efforts in appeasing these leaders, possibly at the expense of American taxpayers.


However, the exposure of some facts on WikiLeaks is beneficial to President Obama. Among other things, the documents clearly show that the Obama Administration was successful vis-à-vis Iran where the Bush Administration utterly failed.


Obama, in contradiction to the concerns voiced about him, is not a serial appeaser and is not naïve. The documents show that alongside his effort to reach out to the Muslim world, he worked decisively and with great success to facilitate a diplomatic front and effective sanctions against Iran. The information can therefore help the president counter Republican claims on this front.


The WikiLeaks revelations will apparently preoccupy the US Administration and global media for a long time now. Yet it appears that the worst, at least for Israel, is behind us. However, the truly important question has remained unanswered – did Israel do and is it now doing everything to ensure that such giant leak won’t happen here in the future?


We already experienced a similar scenario, in the leaked documents affair involving IDF soldier Anat Kam, who handed them over to a journalist. This prompted the IDF and Shin Bet to plug the technological breaches. The existence of defense establishment censorship in the State of Israel also minimizes the danger. However, those familiar with our leadership environment and with the media know that new breaches and new mass leaks will continue to be a substantial threat in Israel too.


Any effective solution to the problem must include a strong deterrence component, and on this front, just like all other democracies including the US, we are relatively weak.



פרסום ראשון: 11.30.10, 00:09
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