Wikileaks: Israelis ‘Intend to Keep the Gazan Economy on the Brink of Collapse’

The Norwegian newspaper Aftenpost has released a March, 2008, US embassy cable describing the Israeli blockade and siege of Occupied Gaza as an attempt to reduce the society to the lowest possible level of functioning without provoking a “humanitarian crisis” (presumably mass starvation).

“Israeli officials have confirmed to Embassy officials on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.”

And, with regard to taking money out of circulation in Gaza, a deflationary policy used as a tool of oppression:

‘ As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to econoffs on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge ‘

It seems to me the Israeli right-wingers missed their mark, since 55% of Palestinians in Gaza are food-insecure and 10% of children show signs of stunting from malnutrition. I’d call that a humanitarian crisis. What the despicable Israeli officials meant by their phrase, of course, is that a mass die-off should be avoided that would bring to bear world pressure to abandon this criminal policy. The Israeli blockade of Gaza is illegal in international law and violates explicit United Nations Security Council resolutions. (Wasn’t defying UNSC resolutions given as a reason by the American Right for invading and overthrowing the Iraqi government?)

Although the MSM is putting the blockade in the past tense (“Israel intended”), it is still very much being pursued. Virtually no Palestinian made goods are allowed to be exported. A very slight easing of imports has been permitted, and Egypt is letting in some volunteer aid, as with the recent Asian flotilla. You wouldn’t want your own child to live as Palestinian children are mostly living in today’s Gaza.

This Israeli policy also violates the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 on the treatment of populations in Occupied Territories (yes, Israel still occupies Gaza even though it is not actively colonizing it any more):

‘Art. 55. To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate…

Art. 59. If the whole or part of the population of an occupied territory is inadequately supplied, the Occupying Power shall agree to relief schemes on behalf of the said population, and shall facilitate them by all the means at its disposal. Such schemes, which may be undertaken either by States or by impartial humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, shall consist, in particular, of the provision of consignments of foodstuffs, medical supplies and clothing. All Contracting Parties shall permit the free passage of these consignments and shall guarantee their protection.’

The Convention did not envisage a situation where the population of the occupied territory is deliberately left ‘inadequately supplied’ by the Occupying Power, apparently not able to imagine the full sadism of the Likud Party. Israel is in violation of both the Geneva Convention of 1949 (passed to prevent a repeat of the kinds of policies toward occupied populations pursued by the Axis Powers) and of the Hague Convention of 1907 on the treatment of populations in occupied territories. The Israeli officials who told the US embassy what they were doing are war criminals. While the cable is not sympathetic to these Israeli policies, neither does it note their criminal nature.

By the way, Art. 59 clearly vindicates the Turkish aid flotilla to Gaza of last May. I believe you will find that no American media ever cited it in that regard, since the United States increasingly resembles a mob rather than a Republic.

The Cable reveals that the Israelis deliberately starved the Fatah-dominated Palestine Authority of funds in Gaza, preventing them from paying their loyalists, and so inevitably strengthened Hamas rule. These officials are not only sadists, keeping children on the brink of starvation, but are also, like, terminally stupid, to boot.

Another document shows that even before the blockade, in 2006, corrupt Israeli officials were making money off the misery of the Palestinians in Gaza by insisting on large bribes to let in American goods past the checkpoint. There must be a special place in hell…

The strangulation cable follows in full:

S E C R E T TEL AVIV 002447

SIPDIS

NEA/IPA INR/TNC TREASURY FOR GLASER, D.

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/28/2018 TAGS: PREL, KPAL, KTFN, EFIN, IS SUBJECT: CASHLESS IN GAZA?

REF: A. 10/22/08 AGOR-BURNETT HOLMSTROM ET. AL. E-MAIL B. TEL AVIV 2144 C. TEL AVIV 2291 D. TEL AVIV 1742 E. TEL AVIV 1508 F. TEL AVIV 1075 G. TEL AVIV 624 H. 07 TEL AVIV 3201 I. JERUSALEM 1840

Classified By: DCM Luis G. Moreno for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

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SUMMARY

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1.(S) Since the Hamas takeover, Israel has designated Gaza as a &hostile entity,” and maintained an economic embargo against the territory. Under this designation, decisions on shekels in circulation in Gaza and the territorys economy in general are treated by the GOI as security matters, and therefore are subject to the same high levesl of uncertainty that the GOI uses to keep potential sources of security threat off-balance. Israeli officials have confirmed to Embassy officials on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis. The Palestinian Authoritys request for a guaranteed “floor” transfer rate of NIS 100 million per month will not be seriously considered by the GOI until after January 2009, when the Palestinian political situation becomes more clear. In any case, given the size of the population and economy in Gaza, GOI interlocutors find it implausible that the number of workers on the Palestinian Authority,s (PA) payroll there and the amount of money to be paid each month accurately reflect the current size of the territory,s civil service or its future government service requirements, nor do they agree with the PAs contention that these payments are buying loyalty. Furthermore, GOI officials doubt the effectiveness and authority of the Palestinian Monetary Authority (PMA) to regulate and police banks in Gaza. Israeli officials reject the PA,s argument that denying banks the liquidity to pay PA salaries in full bolsters the Hamas regime. While some acknowledge the gains to Hamas from a weakened formal banking sector in Gaza, they argue that such gains are small relative to the cost of giving Hamas greater access to shekels or the economic benefits they bring to Gazans. A USG policy that encourages the GOI to review its present policies (as requested by the Office of the Quartet Representative and the PA) while pressing the Israelis to approve as much funding each month as possible under security constraints, assisting the PA to improve its regulatory regimes and due diligence procedures, and continuing to foster direct dialogue between officials of the GOI and PA on Gaza issues in the monthly Joint Economic Commission meetings is our best bet for minimizing economic/political gains to Hamas in Gaza.

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GAZA IS A HOSTILE ENTITY

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2.(C) While the GOI believes that maintaining the shekel as the currency of the Palestinian Territories is in Israel,s interests, it treats decisions regarding the amount of shekels in circulation in Gaza as a security matter. Requests by Palestinian banks to transfer shekels into Gaza are ultimately approved, partially approved, or denied by the National Security Council (NSC), an organ of the Israeli security establishment, not by the Bank of Israel (BOI). As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to econoffs on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge (see reftel &D8). The PAs request to set an NIS 100 million floor on monthly transfers to Gaza is being looked at, but no action will be taken until after January 2009, when the Palestinians political situation becomes more clear. Complicating the Gaza issue, and Palestinian banking as a whole, is Bank Hapoalim,s recent decision to terminate its correspondent banking relationship with the Palestinian banking sector (see reftel &C8). Hapoalim remains determined to stand by its objective to sever ties on November 30, though observers have their doubts that Hapoalim will follow through on the initiative (septel).

3.(SBU) The GOIs monetary policy towards Gaza is consistent with its declaration that Gaza is a “hostile entity.” Some observers have told Emboffs that political pressure arising from the issue of captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, may have influenced high-level Israeli officials to tighten their stance on monetary policy (see ref &A8). However, this has not been raised or confirmed by any high-level GOI contacts. The GOI position on cash to Gaza has remained negative since the Knessets declaration that it was a hostile entity.

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THE PAYROLL DILEMMA: WHO IS ACTUALLY RECEIVING PA PAYCHECKS IN HAMAS-CONTROLLED GAZA?

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4.(S) The PA contends that Hamas, ability to pay its workers, salaries each month combined with the inability of the PA to do so causes further deterioration in support for PA/Fatah relative to Hamas (reftel &I8). The GOI, on the other hand, believes that many of the estimated 77,000 wage earners on the PAs payroll may actually be Hamas members or affiliates. Israeli security analysts argue that a considerable portion of the civil service salaries that the PA attempts to pay each month to its Gazan employees actually find their way to Hamas or Hamas supporters (see reftel “D”). They have therefore determined that full coverage of the payroll is contrary to Israel,s security interests, even if Hamas gains some political advantage from being able to pay its salaries in full. Whether money finds its way into the territory by means of the PA payroll or the Hamas payroll, says the GOI, Hamas experiences a net increase in its funding. Israeli analysis suggests that it is best to deny the terrorist regime a larger pool of funds in Gaza, no matter the origin, preferring to minimize Hamas, ability to purchase weapons or equipment for use against Israeli civilians. Thus, they reject the PA,s argument that denying banks the liquidity to pay PA salaries in full bolsters the Hamas regime (see reftel &I8).

5.(S) Furthermore, GOI officials, while often praising the credentials of PA technocrats, doubt the effectiveness and authority of the Palestinian Monetary Authority (PMA) to regulate and police Palestinian, and especially Gazan banks. This double standard in the treatment of Gaza and the West Bank by the GOI is yet another example of how Gaza is becoming increasingly isolated from the West Bank, despite the best efforts of the PA/Fatah to maintain unity. These issues come to the fore at the end of every month when the PA tries to make payment to its &employees8 in Gaza.

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HOW MUCH MONEY DOES GAZA ACTUALLY HAVE?

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6.(S) Observers speculate as to the amount of shekels circulating in Gaza. The BOI has established a history of routinely approving all requests from the Palestinian banks to exchange spoiled shekel notes from Gaza for new notes. This is not a security issue as it does not increase the total number of shekels in circulation. In order to support a minimal level of commerce and provide for minimal necessities such as food, utilities, and medical supplies, analysts agree that there must also be a certain outflow of cash from the territory to Israel, the West Bank, or other countries. The September 11, 2008 report of the International Crisis Group Middle East Briefing estimates this outflow as 30 percent of Gaza,s total shekel holdings each month. Unfortunately, since Gaza tends more and more towards a cash economy based upon movement of goods through its tunnels to the Sinai, it becomes increasingly difficult to estimate this amount with accuracy. Udi Levi (strictly protect), a high-ranking official in the Israeli security establishment, commented to Econcouns in October that at least 1.8 billion shekels are currently unaccounted for in Gaza.

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WHO APPROVES THE INTRODUCTION OF NEW CASH TO GAZA?

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7.(C) The NSC, an organ of the Israeli security and intelligence community, ultimately has the final say in permitting new liquidity into Gaza. When the PA or a Palestinian commercial bank ask to move shekel bank notes into Gaza, the request is usually submitted to the BOI. The BOI defers to the NSC though it may act in an advisory capacity to inform the NSC on the state of the Gazan economy or possible consequences of action or failure to act. When the NSC ultimately approves a particular amount, the IDF routinely permits the cash to enter Gaza. In determining how much new liquidity can enter Gaza at any given time, the NSC considers several factors, including the humanitarian situation in the territory. The NSC abides by the principal that Gaza should receive just enough money for the basic needs of the population but it is not interested in returning the Gazan economy to a state of normal commerce and business. The agency tries to approve a reasonable amount of new money for entry into the territory each month; however, it will not permit any large scale transfer of assets from Ramallah-based banks to their branches in Gaza for fear of improving the purchasing power of entities wishing to harm Israel. NSC officials have been unable to advise econoffs of any particular formula used in arriving at a figure, but the fluid state of Gazan, PA, and Israeli politics make it difficult to anticipate factors that might have a bearing on the decision from month to month.

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SO WHAT SHOULD THE USG DO?

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8.(S) Embassy Tel Aviv has encouraged the GOI to review its policy on Gaza liquidity, as requested by the Office of the Quartet Representative and the PA. As noted above, we do not expect that review to result in any changes until the political situation between Hamas and Fatah becomes more clear, presumably after January 9, 2009. In the meantime, we believe the USG should continue to encourage the Israelis to approve as much funding as possible each month, consistent with our mutual political/security objectives in Gaza. We should continue to assist the PA to improve its regulatory regimes and due diligence. Finally, the USG should continue to promote use of the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Economic Committee as the appropriate venue for resolving Gaza liquidity issues.

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13 Responses

  1. What I can’t help remembering, when faced with these confirmations of suspected policies, is the utter vehemence and aggressive denials by which official israeli spokespersons and their supporters greeted any suggestion that what these cables confirm was in fact Israeli policy.

  2. The Israeli apartheid is every bit as wicked as was the South African apartheid. Israel is, with the help of congressmen and women influenced by AIPAC, dragging us into an immoral abyss. If we do not exit this abyss soon the world will never forget that we helped create it.

  3. “There must be a special place in hell…” fortunately God is infinitely more compassionate and forgiving than us, so since we can’t sit back and wait for some kind of Divine comeuppance I have to ask “What can we do?”

  4. According to the Bush Doctrine, any country is justified in using military force against Israel to enforce the UN
    resolutions and International Law.

  5. Foreign policy is traditionally seen as “top-down:” leaders confer with leaders, regimes sign treaties and start wars; policy is made between states, not a couple of guys in an alley. But the world has recently seen some disconcerting examples of “bottom-up” foreign policy, where individuals have acted in classic complex-adaptive systems mode to self-organize new forms of behavior.

    Two obvious current examples are the post-2003 Iraqi insurgency and the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan against U.S. military intervention. For Americans, at least, Gaza is unfortunately a less well understood, albeit increasingly important, example.

    The Gaza Ghetto, with its encircling ring of Israeli military “guards” is of course a good example of top-down control, but within the 1.5-million-person society of Gaza, Israel’s writ extends only to influencing rather than controlling. Hamas runs the local government, but even Hamas apparently does not control either the formation of political factions or the use of force—either internally or against the Israeli enemy. Whether Israel exerts its influence through the murder of politicians, military attack, or—as recently revealed—the cynical manipulation of finances to impose the collective punishment of semi-starvation on the whole population, Israel’s actions come down to an insertion of energy that keeps the social pot boiling without controlling the outcome. The outcome is the result not of Israeli decision-making but of highly complex local self-organization.

    Israel might choose to support the development of normal self-government in Gaza, but it does not so choose. Rather, Israel subverts Hamas’ efforts to govern. Since Israel also does not offer a socio-political solution of its own that the population can live with—human rights, a viable economy, security, an educational system, or even a sewage system, Israel does not manage the society in the way any normal government would; rather, it simply provokes the population of Gaza to self-organize even as it prevents the only government Gaza has (that of Hamas) from performing effectively.

    The effect of Israel’s negative-sum policy of preventing good self-government while refusing to offer its own governance (good or bad) is to stimulate experimentation by raising the level of desperation without offering any solution. Israel is thus creating a highly efficient laboratory for breeding new forms of self-organization. The highly predictable outcome is surprise: made desperate and goaded endlessly, the Palestinians will in response invent an endless series of new responses. One day it may be a violent Hamas takeover of domestic administration from a corrupt and servile Fatah, another day it may be a bulldozer attack on the Egyptian border, another day a series of import-export tunnels, another day an international campaign to ship in desperately needed medicine, another day the rise of new self-organized fundamentalist militias that make Hamas look like Gaza’s last best chance for democracy.

    In brief, Israel’s policy in Gaza is a direct threat to Israeli national security. It sets a conservative, hierarchical modern military backed by a government with a foreign policy fixed in the concrete of military superiority as the road to peace against an increasingly inventive, flexible, motivated population finding foreign support from a broadening array of state and non-state actors. It is only a matter of time before some form of behavior with truly serious consequences for Israeli society and, by inevitable extension, for the U.S., emerges from the Gaza laboratory.

  6. Today’s trivia:

    Is anyone else amused that the US diplomats refer to the Israeli government as “The GOI”?

  7. Their treatment5 of Gazans is a war crime that should be referred to the Security Council, the General Assembly and the ICJ.

  8. The Israeli government is like a child in denying guilt while doing things totally in your face. It deserves a good slap in the face and should be investigated for war crimes of course.

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