A diplomatic message released by WikiLeaks on Monday suggested close cooperation between Israel and forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas when rival Hamas fighters overran the Gaza Strip three years ago.
The disclosure could embarrass Abbas and his Fatah movement, which Hamas has accused of working with the Israelis. Abbas' standing among Palestinians has already been weakened by his failure to make progress in 'peacemaking' with Israel.
The June 13, 2007, memo from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, citing a conversation that took place during the civil war in Gaza that ended with the Hamas takeover, cites Israeli Security Agency chief Yuval Diskin as saying Israel had "established a very good working relationship" with two branches of the Palestinian security service.
Abbas' internal security agency, he said, "shares with ISA almost all the intelligence that it collects."
Palestinians have a complex relationship with Israel, pursuing 'peace' talks on the one hand but considering it an enemy on the other, because of its occupation of the West Bank and its settlements there. Collaboration with Israeli security is seen by Palestinians as an onerous offense.
The Israeli Security Agency, also known as the Shin Bet, is reviled by Palestinians for its deadly raids on resistance targets and its often harsh treatment of Palestinian resistance fighters. Although Israeli and Palestinian security forces are known to cooperate, the tight coordination described by Diskin could further weaken Abbas.
In the memo, Diskin also said some leaders of Fatah — which he described as "desperate, disorganized and demoralized" — urged Israel to intervene in the infighting in Gaza.
Without identifying the leaders by name, he said they were in an "urgent situation."
"They are approaching a zero-sum situation, and yet they ask us to attack Hamas," Diskin said. "This is a new development. We have never seen this before. They are desperate."
Diskin is also cited opposing a U.S. proposal to supply ammunition and weapons to Fatah, fearful that Hamas might get its hands on them instead.
The message did not suggest that Diskin foresaw Hamas wresting control of Gaza from Fatah. It paraphrased him as saying that while Hamas was dominant in the Gaza Strip, it "is not yet strong enough there to completely destroy Fatah."
In fact, Fatah forces were routed from Gaza in just five days of fighting.
The Shin Bet had no comment on the newly released memo. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.
An official with Abbas' government played down the information, saying "information-sharing between us and Israel is limited to field information that serves our security and the interest of our people." He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with reporters.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said he was not surprised to hear about the cooperation.
"This is proof of what Hamas has said in the past, that there has been a division of labor between some elements of the former authority in Gaza and the Israeli occupation," Barhoum said. "The same situation is taking place right now in the West Bank as well."
The just-released memo is not the first to indicate cooperation between Israel and Abbas' West Bank loyalists.
A June 2009 diplomatic message cited Israel's defense minister as asking Fatah before Israel's January 2009 war in Gaza whether it wanted to assume control of the territory once Israel defeated Hamas.
Fatah rejected the offer, according to the memo from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. An Abbas aide denied there were any prewar consultations.
Abbas' international prestige is tied to the quest for a 'peace' deal. Hamas maintains that nothing can be gained by negotiating with Israel.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah December 13, 2010.