Mossad had prior knowledge of Six-Day War plans, says Israeli ex-spy chief

first-post-hIsrael’s intelligence services had access to recordings of secret talks between Arab heads of state in 1965, which helped the Jewish state win the Six-Day War, according to the former director of the country’s Military Intelligence Directorate. The brief but important conflict, which is also known as the Third Arab-Israeli War, broke out on June 5, 1967, when the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian armies attacked Israel. But within hours the Jewish state had managed to decimate the assailants’ air forces, and went on to deliver fatal blows to its adversaries. By the end of the war, Israel’s territory had increased threefold and Israeli troops were in control of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, among other areas.

But according to Major General Shlomo Gazit, who directed Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate in the 1970s, Israel’s victory was sealed in September 1965. At that time, a conference of Arab heads of state was held in Casablanca, Morocco, with the participation of senior Arab military commanders and intelligence chiefs. The centerpiece of the conference was a secret meeting where preparations were made for a war with the Jewish state. Participants discussed plans for setting up a joint Arab military command to coordinate the war and shared insights on the strength and state of readiness of their respective militaries.

Major General Gazit told the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth that Morocco’s King Hassan II, who was mistrustful of his fellow Arab heads of state, invited the Israeli intelligence services to monitor the conference. Speaking to Yedioth Ahronoth’s military correspondent Ronen Bergman, Gazit said that a team of spies from the Mossad, Israel’s external intelligence service, and the Shin Bet, its domestic equivalent, arrived in Casablanca prior to the start of the conference. Acting on the King’s orders, Moroccan authorities designated an entire floor in the luxury hotel where the conference was held for the use of the Israelis. After the conference ended, King Hassan gave the Mossad copies of secret recordings of all closed-door meetings. These were promptly transcribed and translated into Hebrew by the Research Unit of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate, said Gazit.

According to the former spy chief, these transcripts produced “massive amounts of intelligence”. They were combined with other sources of information and crucially helped Israel anticipate the Six-Day War. Thanks to these recordings, said Gazit, Israel “was in full knowledge of how unprepared [the Arab forces] were for war”, especially the Egyptian forces, which were “in a terrible shape”. Israeli military commanders were thus certain that the Jewish state would prevail in an armed conflict with its Arab neighbors.

The public disclosure of the fact that the Mossad had access to the content of the secret negotiations between Arab leaders in 1965 is not new. Bergman and his fellow author Shlomo Nakdimon revealed it in a 2015 article about the broader intelligence relationship between Israel and Morocco in the 1960s and 1970s. But the latest revelation highlights the significance of the secret recordings for Israel’s military posture during the Six-Day War. Indeed, Bergman reports that, after the end of the war, Meir Amit, who was the then director of the Mossad, drafted a letter to Israel’s Prime Minster Levi Eshkol, in which he described the Casablanca operation as “one of the greatest moments of Israeli intelligence”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 17 October 2016 | Permalink

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was KGB agent, researchers claim

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas

Two Israeli researchers claim that a document from the archives of the Cold-War-era KGB identifies the current president of the Palestine Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, as a Soviet agent. The document was found in the United Kingdom, and was smuggled out of Russia by a former senior archivist of the Soviet KGB. Abbas is the leader of the largely secular Palestinian group Fatah, which controls the West Bank. Unlike Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by Israel and its allies, Fatah is seen by Tel Aviv as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. That is disputed by Hamas, a religiously inspired group, which controls the Gaza Strip and maintains a tense relationship with Fatah and Abbas himself.

The allegation about Abbas’ past emerged on Wednesday in the Israeli media, after two local academic researchers disclosed the contents of a KGB document discovered at Cambridge University’s Churchill Archives Centre in Britain. The researchers, Gideon Remez and Isabella Ginor, of the Truman Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said the document dates from 1983. It was found among thousands of similar documents that were secretly smuggled out of Russia in the early 1990s by British intelligence, following the defection of Vasili Mitrokhin, an archivist in the First Chief Directorate of the KGB during the Cold War. Some of the documents later formed the basis of a two-volume edition on the activities of Soviet intelligence, which was edited by Cambridge University Professor Christopher Andrew.

According to Remez and Ginor, the document identifies Mahmoud Abbas as a “KGB agent” based in Damascus, Syria, codenamed krotov, which in Russian means ‘mole’. Abbas was born in Palestine in 1935, but his family fled to Syria in 1948, following the establishment of the state of Israel and the outbreak of the first Arab-Israeli war. The young Abbas grew up in Damascus, where he went to university and joined the local branch of the PLO, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, of which Fatah is a member. If true, the allegation that Abbas worked for the KGB will not come as a surprise to observers of Palestinian politics. For most of the Cold War, the PLO was known to be close to Moscow, while Abbas was intimately involved with the Palestinian-Soviet Friendship Association, a pro-Moscow group that was widely seen as an agent of communist influence in the Palestinian territories. But the document from the Mitrokhin archives may be the first concrete evidence that Abbas was handled by the KGB.

Palestinian officials quickly dismissed the document on Wednesday as a fabrication and a deliberate slander. Mohammed al-Madani, a member of the central committee of Fatah, and a close associate of Abbas, said the allegation was part of a “clear effort to damage [Abbas] by various actors, including the government of Israel”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 08 August 2016 | Permalink

American spy for Israel released after 30-year sentence ‘still a threat to US’

Pollard - aSenior United States intelligence officials have filed parole documents arguing that an American Navy analyst, who was recently released from prison after serving a 30-year sentence for spying for Israel, continues to pose a threat to national security. Jonathan Jay Pollard is a former intelligence analyst for the United States Navy, who has was jailed in 1985 for selling American government secrets to Israel. During his trial, the US government successfully argued that Pollard was one of the most damaging spies in American history, having stolen a high volume of classified documents in a relatively short period of time.

But Pollard was recently released from prison, having served his full 30-year sentence. However, as part of the conditions of his release, Pollard must consent to the US government having constant access to the hard drive of his personal computer and internet browsing history. He is also obligated to wear a GPS device at all times, which tracks his daily movements in New York, where Pollard has been living since his release from prison. Some intelligence observers, including Newsweek correspondent Jeff Stein, have voiced concerns that Pollard may be tempted to travel abroad in order to collect funds that his Israeli spy handlers may have deposited for him in offshore bank accounts as payment for his past acts of espionage.

Now Pollard’s lawyers have filed a legal brief arguing that his parole conditions are unnecessary and excessive, and that the US government should ease them considerably. However, documents filed late last week with the US Parole Commission by senior intelligence officers acting on behalf of the US Intelligence Community, make the case that Pollard’s parole conditions should continue unchanged. In a report published on Tuesday, the Daily Beast’s Shane Harris says the intelligence officers argue “forcefully” in the documents that Pollard “still poses a risk to national security”. One of the documents (.pdf), filed by Jennifer Hudson, Director of the Information Management Division at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, uses particularly stark language in support of maintaining Pollard’s parole conditions. Hudson argues that “some of the sources and methods used to develop some of the intelligence exposed by Mr. Pollard not only remain classified but are still in use by the Intelligence Community today”.

Harris quotes an unnamed “former senior US intelligence official familiar with Pollard’s case”, who argues that the spy may have known which “up-and-coming” Israeli or other Middle Eastern leaders US intelligence had recruited or was trying to recruit as agents in the early 1980s. These individuals may today be in positions of prominence, and Pollard may be able to harm them. In her declaration filed with the Parole Commission, the ODNI’s Hudson argues that Pollard could also compromise information gathered from US agents in Israel and elsewhere, which could potentially reveal their identities. “Even in cases where [these agents are] no longer alive, such disclosure can place in jeopardy the lives of individuals with whom the source had contact”, she writes.

There is, of course, another reason too, says Harris, for the resistance put up by the US Intelligence Community against easing Pollard’s restrictions: “US spies don’t easily forgive, and they don’t forget”, he says. Pollard’s former colleagues are still angry about his monumental betrayal. The Daily Beast says it contacted one of Pollard’s lawyers for a comment, but there was no response.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 22 June 2016 | Permalink

Elite Hamas military commander reportedly defects to Israel

Kerem Shalom border crossingA senior member of the military wing of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs the Gaza Strip, is believed to have defected to Israel. News of the rumored defection first appeared on the website of Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the official newspaper of the Palestinian Authority, which is based in the West Bank. On Tuesday, Al-Hayat said that the man, a member of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, had not been seen for several days.

The alleged defector was later named as Bassam Mahmoud Baraka, and reportedly comes from a well-known family in Kahn Younis, on the southern sector of the Gaza Strip. Baraka’s father is believed to be a religious judge that serves in Gaza under Hamas’ jurisdiction. According to Al-Hayat, the missing man is an elite member of the al-Qassam Brigades and specializes in operating inside the numerous underground tunnels that are said to span the entirety of the Palestinian enclave. The tunnels are of strategic importance to Hamas, as they secretly connect it with the outside world, despite Israeli efforts to prevent the trafficking of goods and people to and from the Gaza Strip. Some Israeli military officials believe that Hamas operatives are able to travel from one end of the Strip to the other without having to emerge from the ground. Since the 2014 Israeli invasion of Gaza, Tel Aviv has said that it views the elimination of Hamas’ vast underground tunnel network as a national security priority.

According to Palestinian websites, Baraka told members of his family that he was stepping out for a brief hike but never returned. He is believed to have voluntarily approached the border fence that separates Gaza from Israel and surrendered himself to a group of Israeli soldiers. Al-Hayat reports that Baraka’s family has already been informed from representatives of the Red Cross that he is in Israeli hands. Palestinian sources suggest that the Israeli soldiers that took in Baraka were aware of his pending defection and were waiting for him at the border. He was also reportedly carrying a laptop computer with him.

Israel is known to aggressively recruit informants in the Gaza Strip, many of them affiliated with Hamas. In 2010 it was revealed that Mosab Hassan Yousef, whose father is a senior Hamas official, was a secret informant for Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security agency. Yousef defected to Israel and is now believed to be living in the United States.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 15 June 2016 | Permalink

Ex-Mossad chief calls on Israel to speak with Hamas

Efraim HalevyA former director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency has called on the Israeli government to reach out to Hamas, arguing that the Palestinian group is now ready to accept a peace settlement. Efraim Halevy directed the Mossad, Israel’s primary external intelligence agency, for five years before retiring in 2002. He is best known for helping forge a historic peace treaty between Israel and Jordan in 1994, which made the Hashemite Kingdom the second Arab country, after Egypt, to sing a peace accord with the Jewish state.

Halevy was speaking last week at an annual conference hosted in New York by the Israel-based newspaper The Jerusalem Post. During a panel entitled “Does the World Have an Answer to Islamic Terror?”, Halevy said it was time for Israel to speak to Hamas about the possibility of a peace treaty. The former Mossad director said he knew that “senior figures in the United States” had already established contacts with the Palestinian militant group, which controls the Gaza Strip. He also said that he knew “with certainty” that the leadership of Hamas was prepared to consider some kind of a “temporary settlement” based on the promise of the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 Six-Day War borders. “The leadership of Hamas knows that they have no chance of destroying Israel”, said Halevy, adding that “now is the time to talk to Hamas”. According to the retired spy, a temporary settlement between Israel and Hamas that seeks to establish a Palestinian state would amount to a start in negotiations for a recognition of the state of Israel by Hamas. Halevy criticized Israel for refusing to speak with Hamas, saying that “as long as Israel refuses to talk with Hamas, and in the absence of any other alternative, [Hamas] has no option but to do what it does now”.

Last week was not the first time that Halevy has called for Israel to negotiate with Hamas. In July 2014, he told the American television network CNN that there were numerous radical groups in the Gaza Strip that were more threatening to Israel’s security than Hamas, not to mention Sunni Islamist groups like the Islamic State, which posed a much more pertinent challenge to regional stability. Two years earlier, n 2012, Halevy had issued a public call for dialogue between Israel and Iran, saying that “the Iranians, in their heart of hearts, would like to get out of their conundrum”, referring to Tehran’s nuclear program.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 01 June 2016 | Permalink

Israel, Egypt, Jordan, enter ‘unprecedented’ intelligence-sharing agreement

Yair GolanThe governments of Israel, Egypt and Jordan have entered an intelligence-sharing agreement aimed at joining forces against the Islamic State, which a senior Israeli military commander has described as “unprecedented”. The comment was made on Wednesday by Major General Yair Golan at a press conference hosted by Israel’s Foreign Press Association. General Golan has been serving as Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces since late 2014.

Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem, General Golan said that intelligence was “the most important element in the whole system” when fighting an insurgency of the kind that the Islamic State is conducting in the Middle East. He went on to point out that Egypt is currently engaged in a war against Islamic State forces in the Sinai Peninsula, while “Jordan is terrified by the presence of the Islamic State in [its] cities and towns”. At the same time, Israel tries to “work with them in order to contribute something to their security”, he added, referring to Egypt and Jordan.

The two nations represent the only Arab countries that have signed peace treaties with the Jewish state. A peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was signed in 1979, whereas a similar agreement was struck between Israel and Jordan 15 years later, in 1994. General Golan cited the peace treaties between the three nations as the basis for the intelligence-sharing agreement. But he added that he would not describe the latter as “some sort of reconciliation” between Israel and the people of Egypt and Jordan. However, the agreement is “a good starting point”, he said, adding that he is “quite optimistic” about the future of Israel’s relations with Jordan and Egypt.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 April 2016 | Permalink

Romania arrests four Israelis on espionage charges

DIICOT RomaniaDIICOT RomaniaA Romanian agency tasked with security and counterterrorism has announced the arrest of four Israeli citizens on charges of hacking the email accounts of Romanian government officials. The arrests were announced on Thursday by Daniel Horodniceanu, chief of Romania’s Directorate for the Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism, known as DIICOT). In a press statement, Horodniceanu said the Israeli citizens are all employees of Black Cube, an Israeli security firm that is known for hiring former members of Israel’s intelligence and and special forces agencies. Among the company’s most high-profile board members was Meir Dagan, the former director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, who died in March after a long illness.

Reports in the Romanian press have named two of the four Israeli citizens as Avi Yanus and Dan Zorella, both former members of the Israeli intelligence community, who are believed to be the founders of Black Cube. Two other Israelis, David Geclowicz and Ron Weiner, are accused of having hacked three email accounts belonging to a high-profile Romanian government agency tasked with anti-corruption efforts. Romanian media claim that the primary target of the Black Cube employees was Laura Codruta Kovesi, director of Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate. Referred to as DNA, the agency was created in 2003 with the aim of combating serious organized crime and corruption in Romanian politics. The latter is seen by many in Romania as endemic and harmful to the country’s efforts to integrate fully into the European Union.

According to DIICOT, the arrests of the four Israelis were “preventive” and were prompted by an initial complaint filed against them by a former public prosecutor, Ion Lascu, who is Kovesi’s father. When approached by Israeli media, Black Cube confirmed that four of its employees had been arrested in Romania. However, it said its employees were careful to follow Romanian law and dismissed the espionage allegations against them as “unfounded and untrue”. In a statement, the company said it was recently hired to work on a project to collect intelligence on large-scale corruption in Romanian politics. The statement added that Black Cube employees were arrested “after having made significant discoveries” relating to the aforementioned project.

Late on Thursday, Romanian investigators said they were still trying to find out who hired Black Cube to work in Romania.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 07 April 2016 | Permalink