Switzerland made secret deal with PLO in the 1970s, new book alleges

Yasser ArafatSwitzerland secretly agreed in the 1970s to support calls for Palestinian statehood, in return for not being targeted by Palestinian militants, according to a new book. Written by Marcel Gyr, a journalist with the Zurich-based Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the book alleges that the Swiss government took the unprecedented step of contacting Palestinian militants in 1970. According to Gyr, the move followed a series of attacks against Israeli targets in Switzerland by several Palestinian armed groups. In February 1969, Palestinian militants fired on an El Al airliner at Zurich’s Kloten Airport, killing the pilot. A year later, a Swissair Flight 330 from Zurich to Hong Kong with a stopover In Tel Aviv, Israel, exploded in mid-air, killing nearly 50 passengers and crew. The Syrian-backed Palestinian group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) later claimed responsibility for the attack. In September 1970 another Swissair flight, headed to the United States, was hijacked and diverted to Jordan, where its passengers were held hostage.

It was during the latter incident, claims Gyr, that Switzerland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pierre Graber, clandestinely contacted the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the umbrella group that coordinated the activities of a multitude of Palestinian armed groups. Gyr alleges that Graber reached out to the PLO without informing his colleagues in the cabinet, and that he used a junior Swiss parliamentarian as an envoy and intermediary. Eventually, the PLO, which at the time was led by Yasser Arafat, agreed to release the hostages. He also offered to stop launching armed attacks, hijackings, and other violent operations on Swiss soil. In return, claims Gyr, Switzerland would agree to quietly abandon the investigation into the bombing of Swissair Flight 330, and to push for diplomatic recognition of the PLO as the legal representative of the Palestinian people.

Gyr claims that both sides kept their side of the bargain. The Swiss government gradually abandoned the investigation into the bombing of Swissair Flight 330. The country also led European efforts to offer diplomatic status to the PLO. Meanwhile, although the war between the PLO and Israel continued throughout Europe, no Palestinian attacks ever took place again on Swiss soil. Responding to Gyr’s book, Switzerland’s current Minister of Foreign Affairs, Didier Burkhalter, said he had no idea about the secret agreement and that he was “very surprised indeed” to know about it. Some Swiss political figures have asked for the establishment of a parliamentary inquiry to investigate Gyr’s allegations. It is unclear whether such a committee would have access to hundreds of thousands of pages about the Palestinian attacks in Switzerland, which today remain classified.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 25 January 2016 | Permalink

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

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