Israel wiretapped PLO head office in Tunisia: report

Yasser Arafat in Tunis in 1993By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Israeli intelligence was able to intercept the conversations of senior Palestinian leaders in Tunisia in the months leading to the 1993 Oslo Accords, according to an article published Monday by a leading Israeli newspaper. Veteran security correspondent Ronen Bergman wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth  that sophisticated listening devices were planted in the office of Mahmoud Abbas. Today, Abbas, known also as Abu Mazen, is the President of the Palestinian National Authority, based in the occupied West Bank. But in 1993 he was Deputy Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), serving under its founder and Chairman, Yasser Arafat. At that time, the PLO was headquartered in Tunisian capital Tunis, where it had relocated in 1982 after it was driven out of Lebanon during Israel’s invasion. Bergman said that the operation, codenamed GOLDEN FLEECE, was authorized by Shabtai Shavit, who was at the time Director of the Mossad, Israel’s primary covert-action agency. The operation, considered one of the Mossad’s most important and secret at the time, was carried out by a Palestinian agent who had been recruited by Israeli intelligence. The agent, described by Bergman as a “man within the PLO leadership”, was allegedly affiliated with Fatah, a Palestinian political party that has traditionally formed the largest faction within the PLO. The agent allegedly managed to plant at least two eavesdropping devices at the personal office of the PLO’s Vice Chairman, one in his office chair and one inside one of the desk lamps in the room. Bergman says that, on the day the devices became operational, Shavit held an emergency meeting to inform the Mossad’s senior commanders about their existence. The operation was allegedly carried out three months prior to the September 1993 Oslo Accords, a United States-led effort to address the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian dispute, which culminated in the first-ever face-to-face high-level meeting between the government of Israel and the PLO. The article claims that the listening devices “were worth their weight in gold” in terms of the intelligence they generated for the Mossad, not only relating to the Oslo Accords, but also to the interpersonal relationships between senior PLO executives, including Arafat and Abbas. However, Bergman says that less than a month after the listening devices became operational, they were discovered under unclear circumstances. Their discovery led to the eventual exposure and arrest of the agent who planted them. He was arrested and exchanged with Palestinian prisoners after “concerted and heavy Israeli pressure”, claims Bergman. The paper said it will publish a detailed account of Operation GOLDEN FLEECE on Friday, March 15.

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