I didn’t come up with the headline — it’s from Israel’s pro-settler Arutz Sheva news network. And as their report makes clear, this favorable review of what has been described as a diplomatic 9/11, reflects the views of the Israeli government.
Just as Benjamin Netanyahu on September 11, 2001, said the attacks were a “good thing” for US-Israeli relations and then again in 2008 told an Israeli audience, “We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon,” it’s likewise reasonable to assume that he is similarly pleased with the repercussions of “Cablegate.” If for the past few days the diplomatic world has been thrown into disarray, the one country that so far remains unscathed is Israel.
WikiLeaks, on the other hand, having placed itself at the vanguard of a movement demanding transparency in global affairs, has so far failed to live up to the standard it is setting for others. They don’t need to jeopardize the security of their own operations, but they do need to explain the inner workings of the editorial process through which by releasing some cables and withholding others they are now feeding a narrative to the global media.
I’ll leave it others to construct elaborate theories on how WikiLeaks could be seen as a Mossad or CIA operation, but whether or not either or both intelligence organizations have played a role in shaping this story, one of its central features echoes the history of Israel and its use of a strategy of “divide-and-survive” across the Middle East.
In The American Interest earlier this year, Benjamin E Schwartz described this policy:
When American diplomats talk about the road to peace, few Israelis dare articulate one awkward truth. The truth is that Israelis have managed their conflict with the Arabs and the Palestinians for half a century not by working to unite them all, but either by deliberately and effectively dividing them, or by playing off existing divisions. By approaching matters in this way, Israelis have achieved de facto peace during various periods of their country’s history—and even two examples of de jure peace. It is because of divisions among Palestinians that Israelis survived and thrived strategically in 1947–48, and because of divisions among the Arab states that Israel won its 1948–49 war for independence. Divisions among the Arabs and divided competition for influence over the Palestinians allowed Israelis to build a strong state between 1949 and 1967 without having to contend with a serious threat of pan-Arab attack. It was because of divisions and the strength of Egypt amid those divisions that Anwar Sadat decided to make a separate peace in 1979. It was because of another set of divisions that King Hussein was able to do the same in 1994.
The results of Israeli statecraft did not produce an American-style comprehensive peace, and it did not produce peace with the Palestinians. It may not even have produced a lasting peace with Egypt and Jordan—time will tell. But it did produce peace in its most basic and tangible form: an absence of violence and the establishment of relative security. This is what peace means for the vast majority of Israelis, most of whom do not believe that their Arab neighbors will ever accept, let alone respect as legitimate, a Jewish state in geographical Palestine. And the way Israelis have achieved this peace is, in essence, through a policy of divide and survive.
Now, thanks to WikiLeaks, we see the Saudi king insulting the president of Pakistan, Egypt insulting Iran, America’s fear of Turkey — suspicions, fear and hostility pushed from the background into the foreground with no consequence more predictable than that these expressions of candor will be divisive and further erode the political authority of every player, except for one: Israel.
Meanwhile, if Israeli officials are discreet enough not to openly celebrate the divisions exposed by WikiLeaks, they have no hesitation in trumpeting their sense of vindication arising from the public display of hostility towards Iran expressed by so many of the region’s autocratic leaders.