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Friday, November 26, 2010

Israel, U.S. tense as WikiLeaks set to release classified bilateral communiques

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen in Stockholm in this August 14, 2010 file photo.
The United States Embassy in Tel Aviv has informed the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem that the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks was planning on releasing hundreds of thousands of American diplomatic cables, some of which might deal with Israel-America relations.

The Americans said they wanted to let the Israeli government know so it would not be surprised and would be prepared for publicity that might cause diplomatic embarrassment.

A senior Israeli official familiar with the contents of the message, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the matter, said that according to the Americans, the WikiLeaks material includes diplomatic cables sent to Washington from American embassies throughout the world. Sources in Washington said the documents would be coming out soon, perhaps even today.

The cables date from the past five years and include media reports, talks with politicians, government officials and journalists, as well as evaluations and various analyses by American diplomats regarding their host countries.

According to the senior Israeli official, the U.S. Embassy said that the documents were not highly classified, but the administration did not know the precise content of the cables.

"The Americans said they view the leak very seriously. They don't know when they will be released on the internet and what exactly they say, but they didn't want us to read about it in the newspapers," the official said.

The American message said that if cables from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv were released, it could be embarrassing because they relate to relations between Israel and the United States, which are usually kept confidential, or because they involve internal correspondence between American diplomats that do not always reflect the official position of the U.S. administration.

The Americans said that if there was embarrassment, it was important for Israel to know that this was not their intention.

Kurt Hoyer, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, neither confirmed nor denied that the embassy had conveyed a message relating to the matter to the Prime Minister's Bureau and the Foreign Ministry.

However, Hoyer said that the release of classified cables from any U.S. embassy in the world could have serious implications and even affect peoples' lives.

Hoyer said the embassy harshly condemned the release of classified documents and was very concerned about the impact on American foreign relations.

The State Department in Washington also approached several other countries to warn them of the implications of the release of the classified cables. From a check of their archives, the Americans reportedly believe WikiLeaks might release as many as 400,000 cables.

The New York Times, The U.K.'s Guardian and the German weekly new magazine Der Spiegel have reportedly been given a preview of the documents to decide which ones they want to publish.

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