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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wikileaks: Israel offered to stop Lebanon overflights in exchange for 'equivalent intelligence'

Yet another Wikileaks document dump discloses that in the aftermath of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Israel offered to stop overflights of Lebanon in exchange for 'equivalent intelligence' from the United States.
A cable from 2006, seen by The Daily Star, detailed a meeting between former US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman and the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Personal Representative to Lebanon Geir Pedersen and Special Middle East Adviser Michael Williams.

The dispatch suggested the UN officials met with Israeli representatives to discuss ways of better implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which states that Lebanon’s sovereign borders be respected. The issue of Israeli reconnaissance flights over Lebanese territory arose and UN officials appeared to condone an intelligence swap plan between Israel and the US, according to the cable.

“[Pedersen and Williams] claimed that Israeli officials, whom they had met earlier that week, had hinted at stopping overflights if the [US] could provide equivalent intelligence,” the cable said.

Last week, documents released by WikiLeaks exposed that the US had been operating regular surveillance flights over Lebanon, in what Britain’s The Guardian reported as a plan to provide information on “terrorist” locations.
Why was this never done? The article doesn't say, but I have my suspicions. The United States was deeply disappointed with Israel's performance in the Second Lebanon War. As a result, there was a crisis of confidence between President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert that lasted from the war's end in August 2006 until the alleged Israeli bombing of Syria's al-Kibar reactor in September 2007. My hunch is that the apparent US refusal to share intelligence was part and parcel with that crisis of confidence. Bush saw Olmert (who had taken office in January 2006) as a weak leader, and so long as he did, Bush wasn't going to do anything to help Olmert out.

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