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Israel Fires Deputy Ambassador to U.S. Over Iran Leak, Original Haaretz Story Exposed for First Time

Two days ago, with the help of an Israeli source I broke a gag order concerning the arrest of a dubious suspect in the mosque burning in northern Israel, naming him as Yisrael Katz.  Today, various Israeli media published portions of what I wrote (though only Yediot mentioned his name, and then strangely only his last name).  Of course, none of these sources mentioned that the story broke here first, probably because they can’t conceive of an American blogger breaking stories before them.  They’d do well to pay closer attention to what’s published here.

Today, we’re going to break another important story.  Or at least a part of an important that’s already been partially reported by Israeli media.  In 2009, Haaretz published a detailed report concerning Iran.  Until tonight, the original publication hasn’t been known (except to a few Israeli and U.S. diplomats who were named in it and the newspaper that published it).

When this story was first published, the U.S. diplomats named in it blew their stacks.  They severely reprimanded the Israeli foreign ministry for the leak.  It promptly went about searching for the leaker.  Suspicion immediately fell on Alon Bar, who served at the time as director of strategic initiatives in the foreign ministry in Israel.  Part of the reason was that he was named in the article itself (Hebrew version only) as one of the diplomats involved in the story.

dan arbell

Dan Arbell: his leak damaged Israel-U.S. relations

Bar was fired all the while protesting his innocence.  The Shin Bet was brought in to investigate and subsequently cleared him of any wrongdoing.  He then rejoined the MFA and as a sort of consolation prize, was named ambassador to Spain.  The domestic intelligence agency continued its probe and attention finally landed on Dan Arbell, deputy ambassador in the Israeli embassy in Washington.  When approached, he admitted his involvement and he was fired.  The MFA announced this development two days ago.

Now, a senior Israeli politician reveals the original story that was leaked.  It was published by Barak Ravid, someone I’ve noted here in the past as a trusted stenographer for the Israeli political establishment, in 2009.  The story concerned high level meetings with senior U.S. and Israeli diplomats (all of whom were named)  about Iran.  It laid out the U.S. strategy for ratcheting up pressure on Iran, specifying which types of sanctions were next (financial, oil, etc.), which legislation punishing Iran would receive a fast track in Congress, and exposed everything short of war that was in the U.S. arsenal against Iran.

Besides the exposure of U.S. strategy for all the world to see, the leak made it appear that the U.S. consulted with Israel before advancing any policy initiatives involving Iran.  It puffed up Israel at U.S. expense and probably told the truth–it’s often hard to tell who’s driving U.S. policy more, our own State Department or Israel.

My source says that the U.S. reaction was prompt and fiery:

“You Israelis just don’t know to keep your mouths shut. If we told you secretly we’re going to attack Iran tomorrow, you would leak that too!”

Though I don’t know who spoke those words, I wouldn’t be surprised if they came from Dennis Ross’ mouth as I’m sure Ross (and certainly his close friend, Israel) would shed no tears if the U.S. did attack Iran.  Even using this example half-jokingly, indicates a certain predisposition to favoring the idea.

Interestingly, the story in Haaretz announcing Dan Arbell’s firing was written by…Barak Ravid.  It’s a bit ironic that he calls the pursuit of Arbell a “witchhunt.”  That does sound a bit self-interested on Ravid’s part, since his report caused Arbell to lose his job.

Another salient point is that when Dan Arbell leaks information that offends Israel’s most important ally he only loses his job.  But when Anat Kamm leaks similar-value information she faces nine years in prison.  A bit of a double standard, no?  If you’re a diplomat your leak serves the national interest.  If you’re a whistleblower, you’re a traitor.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • eyal October 6, 2011, 11:50 PM

    Good point about Kam, and great for telling the story behind the fog.

    btw – “clearly him” should have been “cleared him”

  • David October 7, 2011, 12:24 AM

    Congrats on the story. While I don’t want to appear to denigrate your hard work, the government of Israel certainly does its part to help you “scoop” these stories. After all, the “only democracy in the Middle East” is ultimately just another Middle Eastern regime with press censorship.

    • Richard Silverstein October 7, 2011, 1:24 AM

      Yes, it’s easier to point out the vices of a society & press like Israel’s than a country with a freer society & press.

  • Shmuel October 7, 2011, 1:36 AM

    This guy may have actually done a service by leaking, as the knowledge that any potential attack on Iran will leak out may well prevent an attack.

    That having been said, there is still a major difference between him and Anat Kamm – Arbel leaked US secrets entrusted to Israel, Kamm actually stole documents (not just leaking content) revealing Israeli secrets, i.e. her own country’s secrets, and did so from the army where she served as a soldier. A better comparison to Kamm is Manning or Pollard.

  • Meni Zehavi October 7, 2011, 1:51 AM

    “it’s often hard to tell who’s driving U.S. policy more, our own State Department of Israel.”

    I guess it should be “State Dept. or Israel,” but “State Department of Israel” is beautifully ironic.

    • lysias October 7, 2011, 3:09 PM

      “Of” means “or” in Dutch.

      • Richard Silverstein October 7, 2011, 4:22 PM

        That must’ve been it. I was lapsing into Dutch w/o knowing it!

  • Chayma October 9, 2011, 11:30 AM

    Thank you for a unique story, Richard.