An analyst says politicians from Western countries remain silent on Israeli spy operations inside their countries, not wanting to degrade or stand up to Israel.
In the background of this the Australian Foreign Minister has requested that Israeli authorities explain the mysterious circumstances surrounding the arrest and death of an Australian citizen and Israeli spy working for MOSSAD, known as prisoner X, who it is claimed committed suicide in a maximum security Israeli jail. The Knesset has announced it will launch an investigation into the matter.
An interview with Ian Williams from Foreign Policy in Focus, London about this issue.
Q: We heard Benyamin Netanyahu yesterday defending what he said was the work of Israel’s spies, so, considering the amount of pressure and at the same time the seething from Australia, what do you think this is going to lead to?
Williams: I think everybody is profoundly embarrassed because of this; it raises many fundamental questions about Israel’s policy and the West’s relations.
It would appear that MOSSAD has been spying on Australia and abusing Australian passports.
The deceased was an Israeli national, but he was also an Australian citizen and Australia does not allow it’s citizens to have duel nationality, but almost certainly makes exception in the case of Israel because any Jew who immigrates to Israel is automatically deemed an Israeli citizen.
He was, according to some reports from Israeli reporters, the man concerned, was also suspected of passing on information to the Australians – his native country – about what his adopted country, Israel was doing there. And this is something that the West does not usually want.
We know from the Jonathan Pollard case in the United States and the fracas occasionally over the British and others that the Western intelligence agencies deeply resent what the Israelis are doing there, but at the same time it’s politically sensitive for their elected politicians who don’t want to be seen to be coming out against Israel and revealing what Israel does.
And then finally there’s the Netanyahu defense that what happens in the name of security, the Constitution and human rights go out the window.
And of course nobody cares when this happens to a Palestinian Arab, but there is deep concern when it happens to a so-called Western ally.
There are so many ramifications here. It is right out of a John La Carre novel except it’s even more complex.
Q: One thing that’s made it even more controversial is the reports saying that the same prisoner X was involved in the assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai and he was actually planning to give information on that case to UAE authorities.
Do you think those reports can be considered as valid?
Williams: It’s difficult, I mean this is deep security so a lot of this is speculation. There is that and there is the idea that he was passing on information to the Australians about what MOSSSAD was doing.
And they did use Australian passports as I remember in the UAE case as well so there are so many ramifications here. Of course, Australia does not want to become a target of Hamas or Hezbollah or anybody else…
Q: Do you think this will affect ties the various spy agencies of the Western countries are having with MOSSAD?
Williams: I think they are always at arms length. These agencies do not trust the Israelis. They know the Israelis have no reciprocal loyalties; that they will take any information that they can get from the Americans or the British or the Australians and will use it; and will only share back what they think is expedient to serve Israel’s interests.
So in that sense the Israeli secret services are ruthlessly pragmatic and directed whereas the British and the Americans have sort of a more convivial relationship for example.
But we know that inside the intelligence services there is profound resentment as we know from the sentence on Jonathan Pollard, which rather amazingly under the pressure of the pro-Israeli lobby, successive presidents and Department of Justice officials have maintained for spying against the United States for Israel.
Obviously this got some of them very, very annoyed and there are some grudges against Israel’s MOSSAD as a result of this, which have not been dissipated despite the public mon amie.