PM says Wikileaks site will make life more difficult

Netanyahu says diplomats will be more careful in what they say; also says meetings likely to include fewer participants.

By
November 30, 2010 01:52
3 minute read.
Netanyahu speaks in Tel Aviv, Monday.

Netanyahu tilting head 311 GPO. (photo credit: GPO)

The hundreds of thousands of documents made public by WikiLeaks will make it considerably more difficult for both diplomats and journalists to do their jobs, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday at a meeting with senior editors and senior journalists in Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu said that as a result of the huge cache of diplomatic cables that were released Sunday, leaders and diplomats will be more reticent in what they say, and to whom they say it. The leaks will not lead to an end to diplomacy, but rather a re-working of how diplomacy is practiced, with meetings likely to include fewer participants, and leaders preferring to talk directly either by phone or in face-to-face meetings.

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"When the diplomatic system of the superpower is exposed, the immediate result will be that they reduce that exposure, and it will be much more difficult for the talented US diplomats to put into cables and reports things that they would have done before these revelations," Netanyahu said.

Israel, he said, has faced a problem of diplomatic cables being leaked for years, and as a result has "adapted our activity to that reality." "Every Israeli leader, certainly those who have had experience with this, know that cables are leaked," Netanyahu said. "We have already adapted our activity to this reality of leaks. It influences our work, what we do in meetings, who we bring into meetings, what we say in them, and when we narrow the meeting to two people." Netanyahu said that every person added to a meeting of more than three people "geometrically increases" the risk of leaks.

The Prime Minister's comments came at an annual meeting with editors of the country's newspapers on Kaf Tet B'November, November 29, the date when the United Nations General Assembly voted for partition in 1947, paving the way for the establishment of Israel.

Netanyahu said that as a result of the phenomenon of leaks, "what is happening is that we are increasingly having contact with international leaders through direct contact, either through meetings or phone conversations." According to Netanyahu, as a result of the Wikileaks revelations there will now be efforts to reduce the number of people who have access to information, and as a result there will be fewer revelations.

"I'm not sure that this helps you do your job, or us do ours," he told the journalists, "I think that narrowing the circle of those giving advice is not necessarily healthy, but a natural result of [the WikiLeaks]," he said.

Netanyahu said there was a built in conflict between the journalists' desire to reveal information, and the diplomats' will to keep things secret in order for diplomatic processes to succeed, and that all diplomatic breakthroughs in the Middle East were done when there was a great deal of discretion in the negotiations.

One diplomatic official said that the WikiLeaks affair would not significantly alter how diplomats conduct business and communicate with their capitals since reporting on conversations and discussions is the bread-and-butter of daily diplomacy.

But, the official said, what Israel has learned is that when writing cables, never put in the full name of the interlocutor being quoted, but rather keep the reference vague. If someone reading the cable is extremely curious about who is being quoted, they just have to pick up the phone and ask the person who wrote the cable, the official said.

According to this official, Israeli diplomats started the practice of omitting names from diplomatic communications when an embarrassing cable was leaked from the Israeli embassy in Paris in 1999. From that time on, the official said, vague titles are used in diplomatic communications, rather than full names.

The official added that what the State Department needed to do now, instead of a complete overhaul of the way diplomats work, was to better ensure the security and integrity of documents.


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