JERUSALEM — 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.”
On Sunday, Netanyahu said Israeli leaders can feel comfortable with what was revealed in the first batch of documents made public 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.