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WikiLeaks: Israel wanted to keep Gaza economy 'on brink of collapse'

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Israel told U.S. officials in 2008 it would keep Gaza's economy "on the brink of collapse" during an Israeli blockade of the area, according to U.S. diplomatic cables published by a Norwegian daily and released by WikiLeaks Wednesday.

The information in the leaked Nov. 3, 2008 cable seems to contradict official declarations -- made by then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert -- that the Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip wouldn't unduly target ordinary Palestinians.

From the Reuters report (via Haaretz):

"As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to (U.S. embassy economic officers) on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge," one of the cables read.

Israel wanted the coastal territory's economy "functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis", according to the Nov. 3, 2008 cable.

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In a speech in January 2008, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appeared to spell out that policy, which has since been eased in the wake of an international outcry over a deadly Israeli raid last May on a Turkish aid ship trying to break the blockade.

"We will not harm the supply of food for children, medicine for those who need it and fuel for institutions that save lives," Olmert said at the time.

Today's leaks were cited by Aftenposten, Norway's largest newspaper, and one of the cables, titled "Cashless in Gaza?", is posted in full on the paper's Web site.

On the background of the blockade, the Associated Press reports:

Israel imposed the blockade after Hamas militants routed forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and seized control of Gaza in June 2007. Its official policy was that it would never allow a humanitarian crisis to develop in Gaza.

The blockade failed to oust Hamas, though it brought Gaza's economy to a virtual standstill. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost, exports have been largely halted, and for three years, Israel carefully monitored which types of consumer goods were allowed into the territory.


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