One of the most wanted men on two continents, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, was arrested Tuesday afternoon by British police, at the request of Swedish authorities, who issued an international arrest warrant for him. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday that the United States' preoccupation with Wikileaks has led to a reduction in U.S. efforts to pressure Israel into agreeing to another building freeze in Judea and Samaria.
Assange is wanted in Sweden on charges of sexual assault against two women, who filed a police complaint against him earlier this year. The 39 year old Australian national surrendered voluntarily, and is to appear in a London courtroom later Tuesday on a hearing to extradite him to Sweden. Assange was believed to have been hiding in southern England for the past several weeks, since the release of the “Cablegate” documents. In several recent statements, Assange's attorneys have accused the U.S. of promoting the charges against their client, as a form of revenge for the release of the Cablegate documents. They said that they would fight Assange's extradition to Sweden.
Assange has managed to anger large numbers of governments, including throughout Europe and the U.S., with the release so far of about 1,000 messages sent by U.S. embassies around the world to the State Department. The cables detail inside information about governments, leaders, business deals, security, and many other concerns that were on the mind of American diplomats, as expressed in the messages sent to Washington by American embassy officials, ambassadors and consuls around the world. More than 250,000 cables are set to be released.
The latest batch of released cables includes what the U.S. called a list of sites “critical” to U.S. security. According to officials, the list includes factories, pipelines, fuel companies, undersea cables, ports, drug manufacturers, communication hubs, and a host of other “key resources.” U.S Attorney General Eric Holder said that because of Wikileaks, “the lives of people who work for the American people have been put at risk. The American people themselves have been put at risk by these actions that I believe are arrogant, misguided and ultimately not helpful in any way.”
A spokesperson for Wikileaks said that the group would continue releasing the Cablegate documents, regardless of Assange's fate.
Barak: US forgot about the freeze
Speaking at a session of Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Barak said that the U.S. has “lost its train of thought and concentration” on the Middle East negotiation process, and had put it on a back burner, because of Wikileaks. Another issue deflecting U.S. attention from the region was the recent war-mongering by North Korea, and the heightened security tension on the Korean peninsula, Barak added.
Washington plans to reassert itself in the negotiations between Israel and the PA, however. Speaking in an interview with Arab media last Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that she plans on making a "formal statement" on the negotiations in the coming days, which will describe ways both parties can "move forward."