Ex-Mossad chief calls for ouster of Israeli prime minister

Meir DaganBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A longtime former director of the intelligence agency Mossad has called for the ousting of the country’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, dismissing him as dangerous for Israel’s security. Meir Dagan stepped down from his post as head of the Mossad in November of 2010, after leading the agency for over eight years —the longest tenure of any Mossad director in history. Soon after his retirement, Dagan emerged as a leading critic of the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu, whom he accuses of endangering Israel’s security by wrecking its international reputation and isolating the country from its friends and allies around the world. In 2011, Dagan gave a lengthy interview in which he admonished calls by Netanyahu to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities as “the stupidest idea” he had ever heard. In a subsequent interview to Reuters news agency, Dagan insisted that the military option should be last on the table and said that the Iranian nuclear issue should be “left in the hands of the international community”.

Responding to the Israeli Prime Minister’s controversial trip to the United States last week, Dagan said last week it had been destructive to Israel’s interests. Speaking on Israel’s Channel 2 television, the former spy chief did not deny that Iran’s nuclear program was a potential threat to Israel’s security, “but going to war with the US [over Iran] is not the way to stop it”, he said. Dagan’s supporters, who come mostly from the center-left of the Israeli political scene, accuse the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu of focusing almost exclusively on the Iranian nuclear program and neglecting the increasingly volatile relationship between Israel and the Palestinians. Many Israeli left-of-center voters blame the Prime Minister for the 2014 war in the Gaza Strip, which they say damaged Israel’s reputation and failed to provide a long-term solution to the lingering Palestinian issue.

Last weekend, the former Mossad chief was the keynote speaker at a rally against the Netanyahu administration that brought together nearly 40,000 people in Tel Aviv. He told the crowd that the prime minister’s policies were leading to an apartheid state in the Occupied Territories and was making Israel less safe. “For 45 years I have served this country, all of them dedicated to safeguarding its security”, said Dagan. “I don’t want that dream to disappear”, he added, at one point breaking down in tears. Many of the speakers at the rally also called on the Israeli government to refocus its policy priorities away from Iran and toward domestic social issues, including education, housing, healthcare, income levels in relation to the rising cost of living, and services for the elderly.

Retired Israeli generals, spy directors, urge peace talks with Arabs

Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack ObamaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A record number of over 100 retired Israeli military commanders, police commissioners and directors of the Mossad spy agency have urged the government of Israel to initiate unconditional peace talks with its Arab neighbors. In an open letter addressed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 106 signatories from the ranks of Israel’s security and intelligence community have urged the Israeli leader to “initiate a diplomatic process” aimed at achieving peace with the Palestinians. All but five of the signatories are veterans of the Israel Defense Forces with the rank of brigadier or major general. The remaining five are former directors of the Mossad —Israel’s covert-action agency— and former commissioners of Mishteret Yisra’el, Israel’s national police force. The initiative was spearheaded by Major General Amnon Reshef (ret.), a former commander of Israel’s Armored Corps and decorated veteran of the 1973 Arab–Israeli War. He was joined by dozens of his former comrades-in-arms, including Major General Eyal Ben-Reuven, who warned in an interview aired last Friday that Israel is on a “steep slope toward an increasingly polarized society and moral decline”. He attributed this trend to the purported “need to keep millions of people under occupation on claims that are security-related”, but are in reality machinations by weak political leaders within Israel. Ben-Reuven told Israel’s Channel 2 News that Israel had the ability and the means to achieve a two-state solution with the Palestinians that would drastically increase regional security. But it was failing to do so, he said, due to “weak leadership” inside Israel. Referring to Prime Minister Netanyahu, Ben-Reuven said he suffers from “some kind of political blindness that drives him to scare himself and us”. The action by the 106 former security and intelligence leaders was described by Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz as “the largest-ever joint protest by senior Israeli security personnel”. In their letter, the signatories argue that peace with the Palestinians “is not a question of left or right. What we have here is an alternative option for resolving the conflict […] with the Palestinians, which have failed time and again”. And they continue addressing Mr. Netanyahu directly: “We expect a show of courageous initiative and leadership from you. Lead, and we will stand behind you”. The Israeli prime minister promotes the view that Palestinian statehood would threaten Israel’s national security under the geopolitical conditions that are currently prevalent in the region.

Analysis: How does Israel recruit Palestinian informants in Gaza?

Erez border crossingBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
According to human-rights organizations, the Palestinian group Hamas has executed over 50 alleged Israeli informants in the Gaza Strip. Nearly two dozen Gaza residents were accused of collaborating with Israel and summarily shot in the weeks following the recent war between Israel and Hamas. There are serious concerns over the absence of appropriate legal processes in these executions. The issue of legal standards aside, however, there is little question that Israeli intelligence agencies have for decades relied on Palestinian informants to gather information on Arab communities in Israel and the Occupied Territories. These individuals provide the Israeli intelligence establishment with human intelligence or plant technical surveillance equipment as instructed by their handlers. But how do Israeli intelligence agencies, including the Mossad and Shin Bet, recruit Palestinian informants in difficult-to-penetrate places such as the Gaza Strip?

Palestinians who have been personally wronged by Hamas, or who oppose the militant group’s seven-year rule in the Gaza Strip, constitute low-hanging fruit for Israeli recruiters. Other informants, such as petty-thieves and other small-time criminals, are recruited through traditional intelligence techniques that include entrapment or blackmail. But it would be reasonable to assume that most recruits are lured by direct cash payments. Unemployment in the Gaza Strip is currently estimated at 40 percent, which makes offers of cash extremely enticing for a significant segment of the Gazan population. One officer in the Shin Bet —Israel’s domestic intelligence agency— said recently in respect to the recruitment of informants that “everything starts and ends with money”.

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Yitzhak Hofi, controversial head of Israeli Mossad, dead at 87

Yitzhak HofiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Yitzhak Hofi, who led the Israeli covert-action agency Mossad during one of its most important periods, has died at the age of 87. Born in Tel Aviv during the time of the British Mandate of Palestine, Hofi rose through the ranks of the Israeli Defense Forces before assuming directorship of the Mossad in 1974. The young Hofi joined the Palmach, an elite unit of the Haganah, which was the most militant wing of the Zionist community in Palestine. The British occupation forces designated the Haganah a terrorist organization at the time. After Israel was formally established, Hofi was one of many members of the Palmach that formed the founding backbone of the IDF. Having fought in the 1948 Palestine War, Hofi rose through the ranks of the IDF throughout the next three decades, serving in the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Following the end of that conflict, an internal government investigation found that David Elazar, the IDF’s Chief of Staff, was personally responsible for many of Israel’s military failures during the clashes. Elazar was forced to resign in 1974, and Hofi served in his place for a brief period in an interim capacity. But he resigned in protest after Israel’s Defense Minister at the time, Moshe Dayan, appointed his protégé Motta Gur to the post. A few months later, Israel’s newly elected Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, asked Hofi to assume the directorship of the Mossad. Hofi accepted Rabin’s nomination and went on to lead the Israeli intelligence agency until 1982, during one of the Jewish state’s most important periods. Although his allies credit him with exerting a moderate style of leadership, his critics blame him for forging close ties between the Mossad and the rightwing Kataeb Party in Lebanon. In September of 1982, Kataeb’s Phalangist militia members perpetrated the Sabra and Shatila massacres, in which as many as 3,500 civilians, most of them Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites, were killed, some say with direct Israeli complicity. At the same time, however, Hofi’s political maneuvering in Morocco laid the groundwork for the secret summit in Rabat between Israel and Egypt. The talks led to the 1979 peace treaty between the two countries, and prompted the historic visit by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to the Jewish state. Read more of this post

Mossad officer who saved Hamas leader’s life appeals for moderation

Mishka Ben DavidBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
An Israeli intelligence operative, who in 1997 saved the life of the leader of Palestinian militant group Hamas, has published a letter calling on Hamas to show moderation in the dispute with Israel. In 1997, Benjamin Netanyahu, who, like today, was Israel’s prime minister, authorized an ambitious operation to assassinate the leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashal. The operation was carried out by the Mossad, Israel’s covert-action agency, which sent several of its members to Jordanian capital Amman, where Mashal was living at the time. On September 25, two Mossad assassins were waiting for Mashal to arrive at his office, ready to dispense a fast-acting poison in the form of an injection. But as the Hamas leader entered the premises, his young daughter called his name, causing him to turn his head in the opposite direction. As a result, the needle with the deadly poison landed on his ear, as opposed to his neck, and much of it was spilled. Mashal started yelling and before too long the two Mossad assassins had been captured alive by Hamas security guards. Mashal was then rushed to hospital and was about to die, when a furious King Hussein of Jordan contacted Tel Aviv with an ultimatum: either an antidote would be provided to save Mashal’s life, or the captured Mossad agents would be speedily tried and most likely sentenced to death by execution. The director of the Mossad operation then contacted a support officer, Mishka Ben-David, who was awaiting orders in an Amman hotel, and asked him to deliver a vial of antidote to a Jordanian security officer who would be waiting at the lobby of the hotel later that evening. Ben-David did as he was told and handed to the Jordanians the vial of antidote, which the Mossad had prepared in case one of their operatives was inadvertently injected with the poison. The antidote saved Mashal’s life and enabled him to continue to lead Hamas, the organization that is now in command of the Gaza Strip. Last week, Ben-David published an open letter addressed to Mashal, the man whose life he once saved, in which he calls on the Hamas strongman to stop taking his cues from “the most extreme side” of his organization. In a subsequent interview with British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph, Ben-David said his intention in authoring the letter was to “appeal to the rational side of Khaled Mashal”, and urge him to “accept a compromise” in order to “end the war with Israel”. Read more of this post

Israel ‘spied on US Secretary of State’ during 2013 peace talks

John Kerry and Benjamin Netanyahu in 2013By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Israeli intelligence eavesdropped on telephone calls made by the United States Secretary of State during high-level diplomatic negotiations in 2013, according to reports in the German media. Shortly after he took office, Secretary of State John Kerry signaled that he viewed the Israeli-Palestinian dispute as a priority issue. He promptly organized a fresh round of peace talks between the two sides, which began in Washington, DC, on July 29, 2013. The talks, which included direct negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli officials, began with some positive steps from both sides, including the release of several dozen Palestinian prisoners by Israel. But they broke down with the withdrawal of the Palestinian side on November 14, after the Israeli government authorized a new round of settlement construction in the West Bank. Now Germany’s Der Spiegel has reported that Israeli intelligence systematically targeted the communications of Mr. Kerry as he met regularly with high-ranking Palestinian and other Arab negotiators. Citing “several reliable intelligence service sources”, the German newsmagazine said not all of Kerry’s telephone calls were made on encrypted equipment during his negotiations with the two warring sides. Israeli intelligence were thus able to intercept the US State Secretary’s non-encrypted telephone conversations, which were transmitted via satellite. The Israeli side was therefore able to know in some instances the content of his confidential discussions with Palestinian officials, in advance of face-to-face negotiations with him. The news comes less than three months after American magazine Newsweek revealed that Israeli spies were engaged in aggressive efforts to steal American secrets. Last May, Newsweek‘s veteran intelligence correspondent Jeff Stein quoted Congressional staffers as saying that America’s Jewish allies had “crossed red lines” in their efforts to steal secrets from the US. One Congressional staffer told Stein that “no other country continues to cross the line on espionage like the Israelis do”. In a follow-up article, Stein quoted US intelligence officials and Congressional insiders who said Israel had been “caught carrying out aggressive espionage operations against American targets for decades”. Read more of this post

Destroying Hamas won’t solve conflict, says top US Pentagon official

Lieutenant General Michael FlynnBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The most senior military intelligence official of the United States has warned that the destruction of Palestinian militant group Hamas will not solve, and might even intensify, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Hamas, otherwise known by its full name, Islamic Resistance Movement, was founded with Israeli help in 1987 to combat the power of its secular rival, Fatah. Since 2007, Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip, after winning most of the votes in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election. Fatah, which refused to hand over power to Hamas, now governs the West Bank. Israel has for many years accused Hamas for leading what it describes as the “rejectionist” camp of the Palestinian nationalist movement, by refusing to accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state. The US is in broad agreement with its close ally Israel, and has designated Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization. On Saturday, however, the outgoing director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, warned Israeli officials that wiping out Hamas will not mean the end of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, and that the group’s demise will probably lead to a far more radical group taking its place. Lieut. Gen. Flynn was speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, an annual gathering of senior defense leaders in Aspen, Colorado. The top US military intelligence official told his audience that “if Hamas were destroyed and gone, we would probably end up with something much worse”. He went on to add that the militant group’s place in Gaza would probably be replaced by “something like ISIS”. Lieut. Gen. Flynn was referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, known as ISIS, which has emerged from the Syrian Civil War as the most powerful non-state actor in the region. The group has already announced the creation of an Islamic State in territory under its control in the borderlands of Iraq and Syria. Lieut. Gen. Flynn was echoing similar views expressed earlier this month by former Israeli intelligence official Efraim Halevy, who directed Israel’s covert-action agency, Mossad, from 1998 to 2002. Speaking to American television network CNN, Halevy said that numerous radical groups in the Gaza Strip would be far more threatening to Israel’s security than Hamas. Read more of this post

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