PARIS, (AFP) – Fresh leaks of diplomatic cables from 2009 by online whistleblower Wikileaks Monday showed US doubts over Israel’s commitment to the Middle East peace process due to disagreement over Israeli settlements.
A US cable from November 2009, published online by Wikileaks and by French newspaper Le Monde, said Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu wanted to negotiate with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, known as Abu Mazen.
But it added: “it remains unclear to us how far Netanyahu is prepared to go.”
He “is interested in taking steps to strengthen Abu Mazen, but he will not agree to the total freeze on Israeli construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that Abu Mazen insists is a requirement” for negotiations, it said.
Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the first for nearly two years, began in Washington on September 2. But Abbas suspended them after Israel refused to renew a partial ban on construction of settlements on Palestinian land.
“There is too wide a gap between the maximum offer any Israeli prime minister could make and the minimum terms any Palestinian leader could accept and survive” politically, said the cable from the US embassy in Tel Aviv.
Another US cable newly published by Wikileaks said that a French official quoted Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak as saying there was a “secret accord” between Israel and the United States “to continue the ‘natural growth’ of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.”
It gave no further details of the alleged accord.
A third cable showed that Israeli intelligence shared US suspicions that executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussain had weapons of mass destruction, which prompted the United States to invade Iraq in 2003.
That cable, from March 2009, quoted Israeli intelligence official Itai Brun as saying Israel suspected Saddam may have had launchers capable of firing chemical or biological weapons, but not a serious nuclear programme.
The cables were part of a flood of US diplomatic files leaked by Wikileaks, which have angered governments around the world.