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

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

Revealed: Decorated Nazi commander became Mossad assasin

Otto SkorzenyA notorious lieutenant colonel in the Waffen SS, who served in Adolf Hitler’s personal bodyguard unit, worked as a hitman for the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad after World War II, it has been revealed. Austrian-born Otto Skorzeny became known as the most ruthless special-forces commander in the Third Reich. Having joined the Austrian branch of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party at 19, at age 23 Skorzeny began serving in the Waffen SS, Nazi Germany’s conscript army that consisted largely of foreign-born fighters. In 1943, Hitler himself decorated Skorzeny with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, in recognition of his leadership in Operation EICHE, the rescue by German commandos of Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who had been imprisoned at a ski resort in the Apennine Mountains following a coup against his government.

Skorzeny survived the war and ended up living in Spain under the protection of the country’s far-right dictator, Francisco Franco. The Mossad, Israel’s covert-action agency, which had made it a priority to arrest or kill senior Nazis who had survived the war, intended to kill Skorzeny. However, two veteran Israeli intelligence observers, Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman, revealed on Sunday that, instead of killing Skorzeny, the Mossad decided to recruit him. Based on “interviews with former Mossad officers and with Israelis who have access to the Mossad’s archived secrets”, Raviv and Melman allege that Isser Harel, who directed the Mossad from 1952 to 1963, decided that the former Waffen SS commander would be a useful asset against other Nazis operating in Europe and the Middle East. Specifically, Harel planned to use Skorzeny as a trap to lure a number of Nazi scientists who were secretly working for Egypt’s missile program.

According to Raviv and Melman, a Mossad team was sent to Spain to meet Skorzeny. After a tense incident that involved Skorzeny pointing a loaded weapon at two Mossad operatives, the former Nazi soldier agreed to cooperate with Israel in return for assurances that his name would be removed from the Mossad’s assassination list. Raviv and Melman claim that one of Skorzeny’s most high-profile operations as an agent of the Mossad culminated in the assassination of Heinz Krug in Munich in 1962. Krug was a German rocket scientist who was working for the Egyptian government under the tutelage of Dr Wolfgang Pilz, another rocketry expert who had put together a top-secret missile program for Cairo. Krug was targeted for assassination by Yitzhak Shamir, Israel’s future prime minister, who was then commander of the Mossad’s clandestine operations service.

Krug, who was worried for his life after receiving threatening messages from individuals he believed were connected with the Mossad, reached out to Skorzeny in hopes that the former Waffen SS commander could give him advice on enhancing his personal security. But Skorzeny, operating on orders of the Mossad, shot dead the German scientist in a remote wooded area outside Munich. A Mossad team then poured acid on Krug’s body before burying it in a grave that had been dug in preparation for his killing. According to Raviv and Melman, Skorzeny also sent German scientists in Egypt a number of mail bombs designed by the Mossad, which killed a number of people. Raviv and Melman also state that they received oral confirmation from Rafi Eitan, a legendary Mossad operations officer, that he “met and ran Skorzeny” on behalf of the Israeli intelligence agency.

Skorzeny died of cancer in Spain in 1975. He was 67. It is believed that the Mossad never tried to kill or kidnap him.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 29 March 2016 | Permalink

Controversial ex-Mossad director Meir Dagan dies in Tel Aviv

Meir DaganMeir Dagan, who directed the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad for a decade and emerged as a vocal critic of the Israeli government after his retirement, has died. A statement from his family said he died of liver cancer, a disease that prompted him to undergo a complex liver transplant operation in Belarus in 2012. But he suffered constant complications following his return to Israel, which led to his death on Thursday in Tel Aviv. Dagan was born Meir Hubermann in 1945 in Soviet Ukraine, and arrived with his family to Israeli in 1950. At age 18, he enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces and saw action in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. In 2002, a few years after his retirement from the military with the rank of major general, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appointed him to direct the Mossad, Israel’s primary intelligence agency.

During Dagan’s tenure, which spanned the rule of three Israeli prime ministers, the Mossad focused intensely on combating the Iranian nuclear program, using a variety of means ranging from alleged assassinations of Iranian scientists to cyber sabotage of Iranian nuclear facilities. However, like many other senior Israeli intelligence commanders, Dagan was strongly opposed to plans by the government of Benjamin Netanyahu to launch military strikes on Iran. Shortly after his retirement in 2011, Dagan spoke publicly against Netanyahu and senior members of his cabinet, including Minister of Defense Ehud Barak, who openly advocated the use of military force against Iran. In May 2011, Dagan condemned a possible Israeli attack on Iran as an act that would be “patently illegal under international law” and “the stupidest thing [he had] ever heard”. In June, hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu effectively stripped Dagan of his diplomatic passport, after the longtime Mossad Director called Israel’s leaders “reckless and irresponsible” people, who will not hesitate to engage in military adventurism in Iran to ensure their political primacy at home.

But Dagan continued to openly criticize the Israeli government, refusing to describe the Iranian nuclear program as an existential threat to Israel and calling instead for the establishment of a peace treaty with the Palestinians. He said in an interview in 2012 that, when he directed the Mossad, he could “block any perilous adventurism” in the Middle East; but after his retirement from the senior ranks of the agency, he feared that there was “no one to stop Barak and Bibi”, referring to Prime Minister Netanyahu by his nickname.

Dagan was 71. His burial took place on Sunday with full military honors in the town of Rosh Pina, in Israel’s northern district.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 21 March 2016 | Permalink

Germans bill Israeli embassy after Mossad car gets stuck in mud

Mossad sealAuthorities in a northern German town have called on the Israeli embassy in Berlin to pay for the cost of extricating a car belonging to two Israeli spies, which was stuck in a mud pit in a restricted area. According to the Hamburg-based television station NDR, the incident occurred last December in Quarnbek, a coastal town in Germany’s Schleswig-Holstein state with a population of under 2,000. Two men were reportedly spotted late one afternoon driving a Ford Focus near a restricted area that is surrounded by a fence by the banks of the Kiel Canal. The men came across a locked gate to the restricted area, which, according to NDR, is clearly marked with “no trespassing” signs. However, they reportedly picked the lock and drove through the gate into the restricted area. Shortly afterwards, however, the Ford Focus got stuck in a mud pit inside the Kiel Canal restricted area.

As the two men unsuccessfully tried to get their car unstuck, night began to fall. An elderly resident spotted them and asked them if they were government employees. The men responded that they were there to survey the area in preparation for a sailing contest that was to take place in the Kiel Canal in the summer. But the resident became suspicious and called Quarnbek’s Mayor, Klaus Langer. In turn, the mayor called the police, which sent a team of officers to the restricted site. According to NDR, as soon as the two men spotted the police vehicle, they came out of their car and identified themselves as Israeli consular personnel with diplomatic immunity. They presented their credentials and informed the police officers that they were armed; indeed, two handguns were found in the Ford Focus.

German media reports said the police soon confirmed that the two men were officers of the Mossad, Israel’s primary external intelligence agency, and were in the region to accompany the transfer of the ThyssenKrupp submarine to Israeli hands. Known in Israel as the INS Rahav, the submarine was built in the Kiel shipyard on orders of the Israeli government. According to Mayor Langer, a team of local firefighters was dispatched to help extricate the Mossad officers’ car from the mud. Earlier attempts by a local farmer to extricate the car using a forklift had apparently failed. The Ford Focus was eventually extricated and the two Mossad agents were allowed to leave. Shortly afterwards, Mayor Langer, who was elected as a member of the Green Party, sent the Israeli embassy in Berlin a bill for $1392.28 to cover the cost of the extrication. According to recent reports, the Israelis said they intend to pay up.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 09 March 2015 | Permalink

Speculation ends as Israeli prime minister appoints new Mossad chief

Yossi Cohen and Benjamin NetnayahuMonday brought an end to weeks of speculation in Israel, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed the new director of the Mossad, the Jewish state’s national intelligence agency. At a hastily announced press conference in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said he had chosen Yossi Cohen for the post. A 30-year veteran of the Mossad, Cohen left the intelligence agency in 2013 to chair Israel’s National Security Council and advise the prime minister. Cohen, 54, who has four children, grew up in Jerusalem and became a fighter pilot before joining the Mossad. He gradually rose through the ranks to become deputy director at the agency. Prior to that, he led for several years the Mossad’s Department of Collections, which handles operations officers around the world.

More recently, Cohen led the agency’s Political Action and Liaison Department, which is tasked with facilitating cooperation between the Mossad and foreign intelligence agencies. From that position, he witnessed the worsening relations between Israel and the United States, as Washington struck closer relations with Iran despite Tel Aviv’s strong objections. That unprecedented development sparked a fierce internal debate between the Israeli intelligence community and the executive. The debate culminated when the Mossad’s outgoing Director, Tamir Pardo, objected to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s hardline stance on Iran. In 2011, Pardo, who will be stepping down from his post in January after 5 years at the helm, opined that the Iranian nuclear program was not an existential threat to Israel and that the Jewish state should concentrate instead on its dispute with the Palestinians.

Cohen, who is one of Netanyahu’s most trusted advisers, is expected to bring the Mossad closer to the prime minister’s office. He was reputedly one several candidates for the post, and was chosen from a list that included the Mossad’s former Deputy Director Rami Ben-Barak —currently at the helm of Israel’s Ministry of Intelligence Affairs— and the agency’s second-in-command, who is known publicly only as “N”. Following Monday’s announcement by Netanyahu, which came after an unexplained hour-long delay, there were rumors of last-minute complications with Cohen’s appointment. But The Times of Israel quoted an unnamed “senior diplomatic official” as saying that there had been “no last minute drama [or] pressures” prior to Netanyahu’s announcement.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 08 December 2015 | Permalink

Israeli nuclear whistleblower recalls his 1986 capture by the Mossad

Mordechai VanunuIsraeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, who spent 18 years in prison for revealing the existence of Israel’s nuclear program, has spoken for the first time about his 1986abduction by the Mossad in Rome. Vanunu was an employee at Israel’s top-secret Negev Nuclear Research Center, located in the desert city of Dimona, which was used to develop the country’s nuclear arsenal. But he became a fervent opponent of nuclear proliferation and in 1986 fled to the United Kingdom, where he revealed the existence of the Israeli nuclear weapons program to the The Times of London. His action was in direct violation of the non-disclosure agreement he had signed with the government of Israel; moreover, it went against Israel’s official policy of ‘nuclear ambiguity’, which means that the country refuses to confirm or deny that it maintains a nuclear weapons program.

Soon after Vanunu settled in London, the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad began making plans to capture him. The spy agency sent one of its American-born female officers, Cheryl Bentov, to befriend Vanunu. The decision was taken after Mossad psychologists determined that Vanunu was lonely and longed for female companionship. Masquerading as an American tourist by the name of ‘Cindy’, Bentov convinced Vanunu to go with her on Vacation to Rome, Italy. Soon after the couple arrived in the Italian capital, Vanunu was abducted by a Mossad team who injected him with a paralyzing drug before taking him away in a van. Vanunu was then transferred onboard the INS Noga, an Israeli signals-intelligence ship masquerading as a merchant vessel, which transported him to Israel. He was convicted to 18 years in prison and was released in 2004, after having spent 11 years in solitary confinement.

On Wednesday, Israel’s Channel 2 television showed excerpts of Vanunu’s first-ever interview to an Israeli media outlet. The interview, which is to be aired in full on Friday, includes Vanunu’s personal account of his capture by the Mossad. He told the interviewer that ‘Cindy’ first spoke to him as she walked alongside him while the two of them were crossing a London street. But he said that it was he who “initiated the relationship” with the woman posing as an American tourist. That was a critical moment in the whole process, said Vanunu, because “if she initiates you’ll suspect her”. The nuclear whistleblower insisted, however, that he did not “fall in love with her”, as some accounts of the Mossad operation have suggested, though he was “definitely attracted” to her, he said.

Vanunu added that the thought of ‘Cindy’ being a Mossad officer had initially crossed his mind; but he disregarded it and did not realize he was being tricked “until the very last moment”. He told Channel 2 that even after several days after his capture, he still believed that ‘Cindy’ had also been abducted. It was only later that he “reached the conclusion that she was part of the plan”, he said. At another point in the interview, Vanunu said that ‘Cindy’ was not the only Mossad officer who had tried to befriend him while he was in London, but that he was able to detect every other attempt by Israeli intelligence operatives.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 September 2015 | Permalink