Leaked document: Netanyahu backed land swaps

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the United States in early 2009 that he supported land swaps in a peace agreement with the Palestinians, a leaked document shows.

Netanyahu also said in the meeting with a delegation of U.S. officials in Israel two weeks after Israel’s last national election that Israel does not want to control Gaza and the West Bank, according to a WikiLeaks cable released Monday.

The document, sent Feb. 26, 2009 from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, reported that Netanyahu presented his “economic peace” doctrine, which he said would prop up the Palestinian Authority in its fight against radical Islam.

In response to the document, the Prime Minister’s Office issued an official response saying that Netanyahu intended to show that he was willing to make territorial compromises in the framework of a peace treaty. 

“This is the public policy of Netanyahu, this is policy today and it was his policy during his February 2009 meeting,” the statement said. “Any other interpretation isn’t correct and doesn’t represent the prime minister’s stance.”

The WikiLeaks website, which publishes classified documents from anonymous sources and leaks, released about 250,000 secret diplomatic cables Sunday.

WikiLeaks reveals secrets, backroom dealmaking—and cluelessness

A careful reading of the WikiLeaks trove of State Department cables—which is laying bare some 250,000 secret dispatches detailing private conversations, assessments and dealmaking of U.S. diplomats—reveals a notable if perhaps surprising pattern: how often they get things wrong.

Again and again the cables show diplomats, lawmakers and heads of state predicting outcomes that never come true.

A year ago, top Israeli defense officials in a meeting with their U.S. counterparts set 2010 as the absolute, must-be-met deadline to squeeze Iran on its nuclear program. Now Israeli officials say date is 2012. In a 2005 assessment, the same Israeli cadre told U.S. interlocutors that the point of no return would be Iran’s ability to enrich uranium without assistance. Iran has had that capacity for years.

In January 2008, Egypt’s intelligence chief said Hamas was isolated and would not stand in the way of a peace agreement. Hamas’ continuing control of Gaza, even after the war that broke out 11 months after the Egyptian assessment, still undercuts Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

In 2007, U.S. diplomats called Tzipi Livni an up-and-comer. Though now the leader of the Israeli opposition as head of the Kadima Party, Livni twice failed in bids to become Israel’s prime minister. The same State Dept. cable from 2007 said the Israeli military and government don’t get along—“never the twain shall meet!” But they do get along, mostly, and meet often; the lack of cooperation in 2007 was the result of the short-lived term of Amir Peretz as Israeli defense minister.

The disparities between predictions and reality reflect the on-the-fly nature of the discussions detailed in the newly revealed cables.

Ed Abington, a former U.S. consul in Jerusalem who has consulted for the Palestinian Authority, said the authors of such cables work under pressure to come up with “added value” in analysis, and fill in the vacuum with chatter that might not have any basis in reality.

“You’re looking for what you can add that makes it relevant to policy makers in Washington and elsewhere—analysis, insight,” Abington told JTA. “A lot of the reporting, in hindsight, is irrelevant.”

David Makovsky, a senior analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said facts on the ground also change rapidly—a factor that helps explain how dire Israeli predictions about Iran’s imminent weapons program have dissipated, at least for now. Part of that may be attributable to western efforts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. Makovsky cited to the recent success of the Stuxnet computer worm, which apparently disrupted Iranian centrifuges necessary to enrich uranium to bomb-making capacity.

Much of the material in the leaked cables offers frank U.S. assessments of everything from the temperament of foreign leaders to the shipment of arms between foes of the United States. In late 2009, U.S. officials told their Russian counterparts that they believed North Korea had shipped Iran missiles capable of hitting capitals in western Europe. The Russians were skeptical, but agreed that there was evidence of increased cooperation between the two rogue nations and that it posed new dangers.

The cables also track increasing concern among the United States, Israel and western nations that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is leading Turkey along a path to Islamism—and beyond the point of no return of accommodation with the West. In Cairo, U.S. diplomats prep secretaries of state in both the Bush and Obama administrations for meetings with Egyptian leaders and tell them to defer to Egyptian self-regard as the indispensable Arab state, while acknowledging that this perception is long past its due date.

Tracking the cables that straddle the Israeli and U.S. administrations also demonstrates that on some matters policies have changed little, if at all. Stuart Levey, the Treasury undersecretary charged with enforcing Iran sanctions, in December of 2008 reassures Israeli Mossad chief Meir Dagan that Obama is as determined as Bush was to isolate Iran through sanctions. Within a few weeks, Obama would confirm it by reappointing Levey to the job, ensuring consistency.

The leaks also show Iranian and Syrian duplicity. A 2008 memo, apparently from an Iranian source, details how Iran used the cover of the Iranian Red Crescent to smuggle officers into Lebanon in 2006 to assist in Hezbollah’s war against Israel. Syria apparently provided sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah within weeks of pledging to U.S. officials that it would not do so.

Some of those named in the leaks worried that their publication could inhibit frank dialogue. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), was outraged that her private exchange with Netanyahu on Iran and Palestinian issues in a 2009 meeting was now public knowledge. “If Congress has no ability to have candid conversations with foreign leaders, we won’t have some of the critical information we need to make the judgments we need to make about countries like Iran,” she told The Daily Beast.

WikiLeaks release not a problem for Israel, Netanyahu says

The secret documents released by WikiLeaks will not negatively affect Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Israeli leaders can feel comfortable with what was revealed in the first batch of documents made public Sunday, Netanyahu said, because there is very little difference between what they said in private discussions with United States leaders and what they told their citizens.

“Usually there is a gap between what is said in public and what is said in private, but regarding Israel this gap is not large,” he said Sunday afternoon. “Regarding other countries, the gaps are extremely large.”

The documents did show that what many Arab leaders said privately and publicly, particularly on the subject of Iran, was significantly different. For example, many Arab leaders called on the United States, in some cases repeatedly, to attack Iran.

“More and more countries realize that Iran is the central threat, but the countries in the region have a gap because they publicly are attached to the Israeli-Arab conflict but privately they realize that this narrative is not true,” Netanyahu said Sunday during a speech before an editors’ conference in Tel Aviv. “They realize that the central threat is from Iran and now this has been revealed even though it was known.

“It can eliminate the theory that Israel is the obstacle to peace and show that we have mutual interests.”

The United States briefed several of its allies on the documents over the weekend. Israel already had been told by the U.S. last week that it could be mentioned in the release of classified U.S. documents.

The WikiLeaks website, which publishes classified documents from anonymous sources and leaks, released about 250,000 secret diplomatic cables on Sunday.

Netanyahu said he was not told in advance the specifics of what was said in the documents.

State Department legal adviser Harold Koh released a letter to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange saying that the publication of the documents is illegal and demanding a halt to their publication.

The publication of the documents will “place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals,” ‘‘place at risk on-going military operations” and “place at risk on-going cooperation between countries,” the letter reportedly said.

The letter called on WikiLeaks to return the documents to the United States and destroy any copies.

Troubled teens turn to Teen Line and its Leader

Every night for the last 27 years, teenagers who need to talk have been able to find an understanding ear at Teen Line, a confidential phone hotline staffed by highly trained teenage volunteer listeners.

The calls reflect every manner of teen suffering and angst, from mundane worries about dating and friendships to life-threatening encounters with drugs, suicide, eating disorders and child abuse.

Although the voice at the other end of the phone is always that of a young person, the driving force behind Teen Line is Elaine Leader, a 79-year-old great-grandmother with a British accent and a propensity for hats and oversized costume jewelry.

As the co-founder and executive director of Teen Line, the London-born Leader, who holds a doctorate from the California Institute for Clinical Social Work, knows more about Los Angeles’ teenagers than most. For nearly three decades, Leader has established herself as a tireless champion for Teen Line and the often-voiceless population it serves.

“When I see somebody in pain, I feel like I must reach out to help,” Leader said.

She can recite the suicides of dozens of young people in Los Angeles as if she knew them all. She helps train school counselors and police officers alike in dealing with young people in crisis. She can tell you which drugs are in vogue at which high schools, and why there is an apparent epidemic of young people cutting themselves.

The organization’s youthful army of listeners must complete a rigorous 60-hour training program, and they work under the constant supervision of mental health professionals. But the essence of Teen Line is the unwavering belief that teenagers will talk with each other more honestly and comfortably than they will with adults.

Last year Teen Line’s high school-aged volunteers handled 6,666 phone calls and 1,750 e-mails, for a total of 8,416 teen-to-teen contacts. The Cedars-Sinai-affiliated group’s volunteers made 215 educational presentations to schools and organizations in 2006, reaching some 36,000 young people.

In the early years, and to some extent today, the listeners were predominantly culled from privileged backgrounds and attended high schools on the Westside. Although there are exceptions, those kids have always tended to be the ones with the time — and the reliable means of transportation — to devote so many volunteer hours to the cause.

In addition to its Westside offices, a new Teen Line call center in Reseda, which opened last spring, is likely to increase the diversity of Teen Line’s volunteers, and Leader hopes it will also help the organization provide more specific referrals to callers from the Valley. A third call center in Riverside is also in the works, Leader said.

“We are expanding because teens from all over want to be involved,” Leader said. “They want to be able to take calls.”

In addition to Teen Line, Leader runs a successful private practice in adolescent psychotherapy and group therapy from her Beverlywood home. And many Teen Line volunteers are Leader’s own patients; they say talking to others about their experiences helps them to heal.

Leader is particularly passionate in her advocacy for gay, lesbian and transgender teenagers, whom she will insistently remind you are three to four times more likely to attempt or commit suicide than straight teens.

Alyn Libman was one of them. A 22-year-old transgender man, Libman says he became suicidal because of the harassment and abuse he suffered in middle school and high school.

As a 13-year-old, before Libman told anyone else about his struggles, he called Teen Line. He had seen the brochures in his middle school guidance counselor’s office. “The first time I called I hung up, and the second time I ended up talking to someone for about an hour,” Libman said. “I spoke to someone named Michael. I told him, I think I’m gay, and I’m just afraid to come out. I told him I was contemplating suicide.”

“He just listened. It was very helpful. It was someone I could talk to, and they weren’t judging me,” recalled Libman, now an undergraduate at UC Berkeley. “It was very legitimizing.”

After a failed suicide attempt in ninth grade, Libman met Leader by chance at a conference for gay youth. He told her about having called Teen Line, and she recruited him to speak at outreach programs about gay and lesbian teens.

“It really touched my heart to know that an adult, an older adult, thought the lives of teenagers and youths were important,” Libman said.

“You look at her and you think about this proper British grandmother, and you can’t imagine the kinds of people she helps, and the people whose rights she stands up for,” Libman said. “She’s a very safe person to talk to. You just want to hug her and cry.”

Leader says she’s had gay friends for decades — longer than most people her age have known anyone who was out about being gay. “I was a socialist when I was in high school during the war,” she recalled. “I was always for the underdog, and the gay people were the underdog.”

Having spent her own adolescence during World War II, with the family split between New York and London, Leader says she identifies completely with the unsettled feelings common among teenagers.

Leader attributes her relentless drive to help people to the philanthropic example her father set for her in the years before World War II. “I think some of this comes from my father,” Leader says one evening in the Teen Line call center, in a rare display of personal emotion.

An early Zionist, her father worked behind the scenes from London in the late 1930s to help establish a Jewish state in Palestine. A self-made businessman, he convinced a non-Jewish friend with a big estate outside of London to harbor young Jewish men from Germany and Austria, where they would train for the Hagganah, the underground Army that would eventually win Israel’s independence.

“He took these young men out to this country estate. I was 8 or 9 years old. I remember seeing them marching up and down with broomsticks, training for the Hagganah,” she said. “There were 50 or 60 of them, and he had saved their lives.”