WikiLeaks exposes rabbi's Iran talks

UK negotiator denounces publication


A London rabbi spoke this week of his deep regret that his secret negotiations with the Iranian regime had been published by WikiLeaks.

For the past 16 years, Rabbi Herschel Gluck of Stoke Newington has been involved in back-channel shuttle diplomacy with a variety of governments on a plethora of subjects, not always on specifically Jewish issues.

He has had a number of successes during his negotiations but this week Rabbi Gluck described WikiLeaks' decision to publish unredacted details of his discussions with Iranian leaders, said to have been held with the knowledge of both Israel and the United States, as "deeply irresponsible".

The WikiLeaks material relates to a series of talks that Rabbi Gluck had with the Iranians in 2009. They were held with Ayatollah Syed Salman Safavi, brother of the military adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei, Rehman Safavi, and related specifically to the fate of Israeli hostages thought to be held by Hizbollah or Hamas.

The talks are understood to have taken place with the blessing of the Israeli government, and were designed to try to establish what may have happened to the airman, Ron Arad, and to the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

The content of the talks is detailed in cables from a diplomat at the American Embassy in London and sent to the US State Department in Washington.

Rabbi Gluck, who refused to confim the accuracy of the material, said that the publication of the unredacted cables by WikiLeaks was very disappointing.

"There is no way that this type of material should be allowed into the public domain," he said. "I understand the argument about transparency but when people's lives are at stake, that is a totally different ballgame."

Asked what would be the effect of the publication of the material, Rabbi Gluck sighed. "It is certainly not helpful," he said. "It is certainly far from ideal. And it will certainly impede open and frank discussions in the future."

Once described as "the ambassador of peace", Rabbi Gluck has an international reputation forged by his ability, as an Orthodox Jew, to reach across religious and political boundaries. Chairman and founder of the Muslim-Jewish Forum, he has negotiated with both sides in the Sudan conflict and with all sides in former Yugoslavia.

His hard-won good relations with the Muslim community have allowed him unprecedented access to people and places not available either to the mainstream Jewish community or, as in this case, the Israeli government.

But this time, Rabbi Gluck fears, WikiLeaks have gone too far.

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