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In Secret Testimony, Mossad Chief Pardo Threatens Resignation Over Zygier Affair

Embattled Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo

The suicide of Mossad agent Ben Zygier continues to cast a pall over Israeli intelligence activity. Ben Caspit reports in the Jerusalem Post Hebrew edition that a “secret committee” found Mossad chief Tamir Pardo’s account of Zygier’s treatment at the hands of the agency to be untruthful. When Pardo heard this he immediately threatened to resign.

A highly-placed Israeli source tells me that the body before which he appeared was the Knesset intelligence sub-committee. It is the most secret body in all the Knesset and led by Avigdor Lieberman. Its other members include Naftali Bennet and deputy foreign minister Zeev Elkin. Lieberman has few friends among the intelligence agencies since many believe him to be a Russian intelligence asset. He may’ve been the source of the uncomfortable questions which annoyed Pardo so. But the other members are quite amenable to intelligence interests and won’t be expected to go too hard on him.

Usually, intelligence chiefs send underlings to such bodies. They aren’t raked over the coals like this, even in secret. But this was an important enough issue and it posed such a threat to the reputation of both the Israeli spy agency and State itself (also endangering relations with Australia), that he was summoned. That’s when the fireworks began.

Whenever the military or intelligence community faces such scrutiny it retreats into one of two modes: it reminds the public what a great sacrifice it makes to keep them safe. In other words: back off. You don’t want to know what we have to do for you. The other response is outright lying. Or a fictive version of whatever the reality happened to be. And Israelis generally buy it. Or, if they don’t buy it, they don’t make a big stink about it because, as they say in Hebrew, stam cacha (“that’s just the way it is”)

In fact, in at least two instances here (one of them concerning this case), a former Mossad operative provided the same Israeli source mentioned above with a fictional cover story when the real story threatened to embarrass the Mossad. The first was when the Mossadnik told me that Prisoner X was Iranian general, Ali Reza Asgari. The second was last January, when the same figure told me that an Iranian nuclear plant had exploded. In truth, Israel had attacked an Iranian arms shipment in Lebanon and he wished to deflect from this major news event in case it became public

Returning to the Pardo drama: Bibi Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying that everything the Mossad chief says is always the truth and that he never, on any account, threatened to resign. So basically Pardo lied to the Knesset and Bibi’s lying to the Israeli public, which is no closer to understanding much of anything about what happened to Ben Zygier. Pardo has put on a bit of theater. Likely the Knesset committee will be seen to be doing its job without exposing anything. And everyone will be happy–except the victims and those of us who care for transparency, accountability and democracy.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Blabbaer May 31, 2013, 2:06 AM

    Based on what the Israeli Government and the Australian Governments have said to date, I don’t believe the true story will ever be revealed.

  • yankel May 31, 2013, 9:51 AM

    Shameless lying for the sake of what’s collectively accepted as “good for the Jews” is considered a Mitzvah – a religious duty – in today’s Israel. The ability to do so successfully is considered a strength, even a prerequisite, for any politicians with statesmanship aspirations.
    Like with other occupation-necessitated shortcomings, there’s some unavoidable spillage into unrelated aspects of life. Bibi’s relentless lying is taken as a strength. This allows him to successfully maintain electability while his lies are continually exposed without causing any meaningful scandal.

    And a Hebrew language correction for the record:
    The Hebrew equivalent of “that’s just the way it is” is “kakha ze” and not “stam cacha” which means “for no particular reason”.

  • Shmuel May 31, 2013, 8:41 PM

    If Leiberman heads the committee then Pardo has no choice but to lie knowing as do all Israelis that he is a suspected Russian spy and Putin lackey.

    • SimoHurtta June 1, 2013, 2:34 AM

      Impossible to understand how Lieberman is seen as a Russian spy and Putin lackey. What has Lieberman done what benefits Russia and Putin? The fact that Lieberman leans to Israeli Soviet Jews and occasionally brownnoses Russian leaders are only political moves to give Lieberman his unofficial status as the leader of “Israeli Soviet Jews”. Russian leaders politely meet Lieberman (and other Israeli leaders) but obviously it limits to that.

      It is very difficult to see what are the favors Russia does to Israel through Lieberman or what is the “information” and other “assets” Lieberman delivers to Russia. The impression Lieberman desperately tries to give is, that he can control Russia in the same way Netanyahu and others are able to control USA (successfully). The term (unsuccessful) controller is more describing as agent when we speak about Lieberman, if we no not use the terms extremely dangerous racist Israeli populist.

      Lieberman moved to Israel at the age of 20 in 1978, so he did not enter as a “fully trained” KGB agent under cover. All what Lieberman has learned of a apartheid state, politics, army etc were got in Israel. Claiming, which is done often by Israelis, that Lieberman’s racist attitude and rudeness exist because he is “Russian” is simply funny. Equally we could claim that Albert Einstein’s humanism existed purely and only because he was born in Germany. Lieberman is a bit more Russian (or Moldavian who are not Russians) as JFK was Irish. Lieberman is a Jew formatted by present times Israel, not by Soviet Union of 60’s and 70’s.

      • Richard Silverstein June 1, 2013, 3:42 PM

        @SimoHurtta: I’m afraid the charges against Lieberman are quite serious. IN the previous government, the intelligence services even said that they refused to brief him on certain subjects (presumably the ones connected to Russia). I don’t know if that limitation is still in effect or not. Lieberman was furious & threatened to end MFA cooperation with intelligence personnel as revenge. I’ve often posted here about these suspicions, which I credit (though I can’t say for sure they’re ironclad & proven).

        • SimoHurtta June 2, 2013, 2:43 AM

          Well how much is there Israeli internal political fighting and smear campaigns in these Lieberman accusations? What is the easiest way of trying to shake and undermine Lieberman? Naturally his Soviet “childhood” in a society which has the closest relations to nations which have considered (and consider) Russia as their archenemy. American and Western media love these Russian spy stories. Accusing Lieberman of his Russia links guaranties big interest in US (and Israeli) media even there is no real basis in the story.

          Not only Israeli security organizations, but also Americans and some Europeans have certainly checked Lieberman’s Russia relations with the finest possible “microscopes” several times. If there would be the slightest reasons to suspect Lieberman would not be allowed in the center of Israeli security system, not by Israelis, Americans or NATO. Lieberman’s and Mossad’s fight which surfaced a couple years ago seemed to be more an organizational fight between Israeli foreign ministry and Mossad. Lieberman wanted more information for his ministry and ambassadors. Mossad did not want to give it. I do not see any personal Lieberman “Russia link” in this fight.

          There are stories about Lieberman’s admiration of Putin. But do we see stories about Putin admiring or even liking Lieberman? These “I admire Putin” are equal political liturgy attempts to get some fictional “goodwill” in Russia. It is equal to that brownnosing when US politicians say that we admire Netanyahu and Israel. Nobody takes that “admiration” literally.

          If Lieberman would really be a spy for Russia, he would not so loudly advertise his links to Russia. Of course Lieberman tries to increase his political (and money making) value by saying “I have influence in Russia”. It should finally be “investigated” does Lieberman really have real influence in Moscow, not repeated that non-sense propaganda “Lieberman is Putin’s spy in Israel” and “Lieberman is Russian” one million times. How has Lieberman helped Russia, what has Russia benefited of that “co-operation”? Not very much …

  • nessim dayan June 1, 2013, 2:23 AM

    Mr Silverlstein
    I very frequently read your column to stay uptodate on what the local media does not report either willfully or by order.
    i very frequently agree with you at the level of cynicism and lack of honesty and truth on just about every knesset member and their desire for power and lack of purpose to help and assist the general populace
    what i cannot agree with is the extra pinch of cynicism that you flavor your remarks, yes you are entitled and i thank you for keep us abreast of very important news, however i, still as a recalcitrant israeli, feel a pinch in my chest when you deride (apparently or so i feel at least) all things israeli.
    perhaps now and then an upbeat piece of news would make us feel a bit worthwhile and not always the butt end of the world’s joke, after all what is our purpose to fight for if all we read about is most usually downbeat
    thank you for your time, and no i am not a fruitcake of any sort

    • Richard Silverstein June 1, 2013, 3:39 PM

      @nessim dayan: I often post in my blog & on Facebook & Twitter upbeat news about Israel & other matters. If you use social media, you might want to follow me on Twitter & Facebook where I post a greater variety of material, including a bit more that is upbeat/happy. But I’m afraid if you’re looking for “The Good News,” as evangelicals like to say, about Israel this probably isn’t the place. When Israel comes to its senses & compromises with its neighbors I’ll be more than happy to turn this blog into a font of Israel-happiness. Till then, it will have to be more or less what it is.

  • Davey June 1, 2013, 12:21 PM

    It may be that there are many many Israelis who are moral, decent people concerned about Israel’s continuing crimes and its ethnic policies aimed at expunging Palestinian life throughout all of mandate Palestine. It may very well be that you are not a fruitcake. But, you and your fellows do not direct power in Israel; rather political power, the power to kill people in your backyard or anywhere else in the world so targeted, the power to make and enforce policy is not held by you. Israelis as a whole have supported a revolving door of militarist politicians and entrusted these morally challenged people to project Israel as a national entity in the world. The Israel they have created and projected is vile enough, reprehensible enough, to have crowded out the many pluses of Israel and its many virtues. To celebrate any part of Israel is easily construed as assent to the militarist Zionism of the government, a regime that is reprehensible in just about every way, especially as viewed by the world Jewry which it invokes with its crocodile sobbing. Israelis have allowed the destruction of Palestinian life decade after decade, a program now reaching a crescendo in the settlement enterprise, done without remorse, or any genuine effort at settling issues. Nothing about Israel can or should be celebrated while it pushes its racism and justifies its expropriation of other people’s property. From my viewpoint, any fortuitous cynical jab here and there is a jab at the whole and it is that whole that is wrong.

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