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Mysterious Soviet-Israeli Double Agent Unmasked–Sorta

soviet israeli double agent

Mysterious alleged Soviet-Israeli double agent (Tamar Matsafi/Globes)

Israel’s News1 site reveals that some years back Israeli intelligence apprehended an Israeli who was an agent of the former Soviet Union (which would imply that he was unmasked sometime on or before 1989).  They made a deal.  Instead of prosecuting him, they “turned” him and he became a double agent and fed false or misleading information to the Soviets.

The article continues:

The identity of the double agent, which was revealed to us, is forbidden to publish.  We speak of someone well-connected and respected who travels in the highest circles and does business among them.  The exposure of his identity, if and when such restriction are lifted, would almost certainly surprise many.

…The decision not to arrest him or bring him to justice was made, due to the nature of the case, at the very highest level in Israel.  The name of the double agent is familiar and known to be among the highest echelon.

When confronted with the charge, the individual said the story was foolishness and not worth taking seriously.  A non-denial denial.

With stories like this it’s important to gauge who might leak the information and why. Of course, the Mossad and Shin Bet have had more than their share of bad PR over the past few months and a story like this burnishes their image.  The reporter who wrote the story, Yoav Yitzhak, has a fairly reliable reputation and uncovered the financial scandal that caused Ezer Weitzman to resign the presidency.  So this story certainly deserves some credibility.

News1 has provided a possible clue to unmasking the identity of the spy.  It features a photo with his face removed by Globes photographer, Tamar Matsafi.  The fact that Globes is a business publication and the reporter notes that the spy engaged in business deals would tend to exclude some of the most likely suspects involved in Israeli politics like Avigdor Lieberman and Natan Sharansky.  But it might include prominent Israeli businessmen from the former Soviet Union like Lev Leviev, Arcady Gaydamak or Leonid Nevzlin.  I encourage anyone with access to Israeli photo archives to comb through them and let me know if you find prior publication of this image with the face intact.

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{ 22 comments… add one }
  • uncle joe mccarthy June 24, 2010, 11:46 PM

    sharansky was a refusenik…how could he ever have been a double agent?

    and wouldnt making this person’s identity public place him at some risk?

    • Richard Silverstein June 25, 2010, 12:11 AM

      Don’t you read what I wrote? I wrote that it was more likely a businessman than a politico like Sharansky.

      • uncle joe mccarthy June 25, 2010, 11:37 AM

        that isnt what you wrote

        “The fact that Globes is a business publication and the reporter notes that the spy engaged in business deals would tend to exclude some of the most likely suspects involved in Israeli politics like Avigdor Lieberman and Natan Sharansky.”

        thereby alluding that the most likely suspects would be lieberman or sharansky

        would help if you had written, a politico like sharansky….you didnt

        • Richard Silverstein June 26, 2010, 12:41 AM

          Did you miss “would tend to exclude…Natan Sharansky?”

  • Meni Zehavi June 25, 2010, 2:48 AM

    Richard, I’m sorry, but you are wrong on most of this.
    First, the USSR ceased to exist in December 1991, and up to that date there were a lot of Soviet intelligence agents everywhere (later most of them continued as Russian agents).
    Second, Nevzlin came to Israel from Russia in the early 2000s, and Gaydamak came to Israel from France at about the same time. None of them could have operated here as a Soviet agent.
    Third, theoretically, Leviev could be the person in question, but I strongly doubt that he is. The identity of the agent is said to be surprising, and I am almost sure he’s not of Soviet/Russian origin. I think what we have here is a case similar to this guy:

    link to haaretz.com

    • Richard Silverstein June 26, 2010, 12:49 AM

      the USSR ceased to exist in December 1991

      I was thinking of the yr the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 & confused that with the date the Soviet Union fell. Thanks for filling me in on the background for the others & why they wouldn’t be apt. I don’t think it’s Leviev either.

  • iris June 25, 2010, 3:39 AM

    amnon zichroni ? wouldnt be so surprising but not a business man either…

    well, the suspence is killing us ()

  • Medawar June 25, 2010, 5:25 AM

    Strange thing is, the Kremlin has shown no sign of taking “bad” decisions for a long time, although they’ve done some deeply cynical and opportunistic things, of course. Listen to the Crown Prosecution Service, and you’d get the impression that the Russian government was getting away with murder even.

    Israel, meanwhile, has been kicking off on the wrong foot pretty consistently for the past decade.

    It’s called an “agent of influence” and Medawar would put money on the FSB having one in Mossad or even the Israeli Cabinet.

    The FSB inherited several agents of influence in the British Parliament, from the KGB, and at least one of these was such a high profile “friend” of Israel that he could have promoted the career of a fellow agent (or two) in Israeli politics. (This is one of the main things the KGB and FSB have used agents of influence for: to get the next generation of agents into even more influential positions.)

    The end of the Cold War did not stop this activity, indeed, the FSB has a bigger budget than the KGB and with far less emphasis on internal political enemies, is free to spend nearly all of it causing problems in other countries.

    Israel has been taking bad decisions and getting its intelligence calls badly wrong. That’s a symptom of the covert war going precisely the opposite way to what’s suggested by the articles described above. There is no sign whatsoever of the “Russia United” regime being tricked into doing anything to their own disadvantage.

    Indeed, they have the German government completely at heel (the turn of the gas tap works wonders) and the American government is being trained to sit up and beg in return for meaningless morsels of “consensus”, so Medawar’s assessment is that the FSB and Russia United are winning, if anybody is.

  • medawar June 25, 2010, 8:48 AM

    Agents of influence are a contentious issue in the Dominion, too:
    link to cbc.ca

    Readers might amuse themselves by drawing links between extreme zionist-supporting Canadian businessmen, the Canadian provincial politicians supposed to be agents of influence, and the current Israeli government and its members.

    It’s a very sensitive issue, because the invariable reflex reaction of any prime minister’s staff to such a warning, is to furiously attack the intelligence services for undermining their party.

    Or to plant a fantasy that they are the ones cleverly manipulating hostile governments…

    • iris June 26, 2010, 9:48 AM

      Soon in Canada people from ON will seek asylum in BC etc.

      If you have any specific knowledge on LIkkudniks in Canada CBSA or CSIS, leave an email. Since I had a “Mabhuhish” experience there, for which I want to sue someone, will be happy to swap notes. I ran into a local TO network of Israeli ops, conservative party politics and police, a network that just does what it wills, when it comes to ideological enemies of Likkud or whistleblowers. On the other hand, there are showing similar unhealthy ties to other counties in our region. So, it boils down to where in canada you happens to be, and it can be a life/death difference if you dont know the local dispersion of Jews. I would not recommend Israelis who ran into Shushu battles to even get close to Winnipeg or TO.

      • Medawar June 28, 2010, 3:13 AM

        Sounds like you need to post a comment or two here:
        link to medawarscornflakes.blogspot.com

        Because there’s a person in common with the sort of harassment of moderate Jews by Jewish extremists you describe, in Canada, and other harassment, of native Americans and indeed, Australians.

        Help is possible, but it’s best to feel one’s way a bit, as there have been plants and an outright stalker.

        • Medawar June 28, 2010, 3:14 AM

          I meant Iris, not Lisa. It’s the heat.

          • iris June 28, 2010, 10:58 AM

            OMG, you should forward a warning that your post is triggering. One of those panaoia/hypochondria inducing reads.

            will get a glass of red wine, good jazz background music…and ..read it. I will post a comment or two, I suppose LOL

      • medawar June 28, 2010, 10:18 PM

        link to news.bbc.co.uk

        Who’s paranoid now?
        It was obvious to the good folk of Vauxhall Cross some years ago, that “agents of influence” HAD TO BE the story in Washington, because the Americans were so sunny and positive about the Russians, even when it was painfully obvious that the Russians were shafting them.

        At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, this also HAS TO BE the story with the Israeli government, too. Someone is whispering into their ear that they are doing brilliant when they are doing disastrous, someone is encouraging all the mistakes and blocking all the alternative policies and strategies, so that they are left only with the highway to disaster, which they will see as their own choice, when it isn’t.

        When King David was at war with his son, Absalom, Absalom benefited from the advice of Ahithophel, and there being now way that David and his relatively small band of followers were going to win as long as Absalom’s army was well directed, David’s friend Hushai went to Absalom to offer his own advice, which SOUNDED better than that of Ahithophel, but which led Absalom’s forces into the one situation where David’s men would have the upper hand.

        Eduard Barak may or may not have read this story, but it’s pretty obvious that Vladimir Putin read his Bible diligently and took notes. The question is, who else, apart from Mr Putin, would play the game with sufficient skill and resource?

  • lysias June 25, 2010, 2:07 PM

    The name that comes to my mind is that of Shimon Peres.

  • DICKERSON3870 June 25, 2010, 7:23 PM

    RE: “But it might include prominent Israeli businessmen from the former Soviet Union like Lev Leviev, Arcady Gaydamak or Leonid Nevzlin.” – R.S.

    TO BORROW FROM AEROSMITH: “Dude looks like a lady.”
    Weight. Shoulders do not appear to be very broad. Open shirt/blouse collar. Unconventional cuff for a male. Also, the way the papers are being held is more characteristic of a woman.

    OF THE THREE MEN: Leviev would seem the most likely due to his weight. Also, if it is a man’s dress shirt (worn casually), the cuff looks look like something you might see on a businessman in London (or on Tony Blankley).

  • jule June 25, 2010, 10:48 PM

    It could be Roman Abramovich,

    Leonid Nevzlin is wanted by the Russian authorities, he was involved in the YUKOS oil company which Russia seized. Nezlin also met the UK poisened spy, Alexander Litvenenko

  • Dana June 26, 2010, 7:11 PM

    The body type says Leviev to me. The time period is right and the power plays and bad conscience fit the bill too. The cuff spells money to throw around, which would again be about right. I can see why the KGB/FSB would have used him to penetrate the jewish/israeli/ mafia, both in Russia and abroad, and I can see what would have motivated him to cooperate (it was good not to be arrested for example). OTOH, I can easily see that it wouldn’t take much convincing for him to become an agent for Israel too.

    Nice gig, if you can get it…..

  • R N A June 28, 2010, 8:30 PM

    so does this have anything to do with latest reports of FBI arrest of 10 Russian spies?

  • duck June 29, 2010, 7:30 AM

    Dov Weissglass?

    link to haaretz.co.il

  • duck June 29, 2010, 7:38 AM

    Or maybe Avraham Nanikashvili:

    link to nrg.co.il

  • duck June 29, 2010, 7:42 AM

    Sorry, looks like the link only works like half the time.

    just look at number 15 on this list:

    link to nrg.co.il

    I’m gonna stop spamming now:)

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