Haaretz published today an interview with Ukrainain Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov, regarding his upcoming visit to Israel. Among the subjects the interviewer questioned him about was the kidnapping of Gaza power plant engineer, Dirar Abu Seesi. It’s astonishing that he could lie with such a straight face:
Can you respond to reports that the Palestinian engineer, Dirar Abu Sisi, was kidnapped on Ukrainian soil by Israeli intelligence agents?
We don’t have clear information right now. The matter is being investigated by officials responsible for state security. Until we know something for certain, we can’t respond.
Theoretically, if the information turns out to be correct, what would that mean?
I don’t want to imagine that such things are carried out on the soil of a friendly state.
First lie: we don’t have clear information. Of course they have clear information. His intelligence services either conducted the kidnapping themselves or were intimately involved in it. How does the intelligence service of a country hundreds of miles away operate on your territory without your knowing about it? The notion is preposterous. Second lie: the matter is being investigated by state security. My ass. State security, as I said, is up to its eyeballs in it.
I have a quarrel with a key assumption of the interviewer. I think it’s much more likely that Abu Seesi was kidnapped by Ukrainian intelligence and then handed over to Israeli agents at a Ukrainian airport (see story below) in a classical example of extraordinary rendition. I strongly doubt that Israeli agents would’ve had the kahones to actually kidnap Abu Seesi themselves especially given the disaster that enveloped them when they assassinated al-Mabouh in Dubai. Much easier to get the native intelligence service to do your dirty work for you and deliver the goods to your door allowing you to take it from there. There is simply too much danger and too much that could go wrong if you send agents into foreign territory to do the job themselves.
Radio Liberty has published a new story about the case that incorporates some interesting new information. It notes that Dalia Kerstein, the director of the Israeli NGO, HaMoked, who first informed me that Abu Seesi was in an Israeli prison, says Abu Seesi arrived in Israel within hours of when he was kidnapped in Ukraine. He was taken from the train on the night of February 18th and arrived in Israel the next day. This means that he was whisked from the site of his kidnapping likely directly to a Ukrainian airport, where he was packed on an Israeli plane or a plane hired by the Mossad, and delivered to the Shabak’s doorstep when he arrived on Israeli soil:
A representative of the Palestinian Diaspora in Kyiv said that he did not exclude that Israeli special services could have taken engineer Dirar Abu Sisi out of Ukraine without the consent of its government.
“The Israeli authorities confirmed the seizure of the engineer. His lawyer learned about this from the prison administration. Ukrainian police could be not implicated in this. Mossad has already carried out similar operations in other countries. The engineer could have been transported [from Ukraine] in a diplomatic car or an aircraft from a small airport in Ukraine. I think that they did this with Dirar,” he said.
Ukrainian expert Viktor Kaspruk also said he did not rule out such a scenario.
“There are small airports near Kyiv such as Hostomel. Some businessmen have fled Ukraine from airports of this kind. Perhaps, Abu Sisi was sent to Israel from such an airport. This is a serious test for the country. If this information is even half-true, this means that the authorities have no control over Ukraine’s territory at all,” the expert said.
These Ukrainian sources have given us the likely scenario of the abduction, told us from which airport it might’ve transpired, and that this airport is regularly used for similar suspicious activity when someone needs to leave the country in a hurry. What we need is some intrepid Ukrainian investigative journalist who can ferret out the flight records of the airport nearest Poltava (possibly Hostomel) that could support a jet making such a flight for the evening-morning of Feburary 18-19th, when Abu Seesi was abducted. Unless the records have “disappeared,” they would indicate either an Israeli flight or an Israeli flight destination or some discrepancy that would be a dead-giveaway about the true final destination of Abu Seesi’s plane. This is how journalists uncovered the details of a number of the U.S.-sponsored extraordinary rendition flights during the Bush years.
Again, I believe it is highly unlikely the Israelis did this alone. If they did, then I believe the Ukrainians would be much angrier than they are. The prime minister wouldn’t be making his hotel reservations at the King David as I write this. And the Ukrainian government would’ve treated the Abu Seesis much differently than it did, as brother Yousef recounted in his interview with me. The Ukrainians, he believes, are in on the deal and I think he’s right. According to Abu Seesi’s wife, the Ukrainian train conductors told her at first that Ukrainian intelligence carried out the abduction:
Abu Sisi’s Ukrainian wife, Veronika, quoting train conductors, said that two hours after her husband boarded the train; two men entered his compartment, produced the IDs of special service officers and took him away.
However, later the conductors refused to testify and said that nothing had happened in the train and that there had been no abduction.
Two important factors here. I seriously doubt the Mossad would fabricate the identification papers of Ukrainian intelligence officers. THAT would really be a diplomatic-intelligence faux pas of gigantic magnitude. Second, the fact that the train conductors later recanted indicates clearly that pressure was put upon by the Ukrainian intelligence services to cover up their participation.
The question is what Israel has given the Ukrainians to buy their collaboration. Governments don’t just allow foreign countries to kidnap citizens of other countries on their territory for nothing. One wonders whether the bargaining chip is an Israeli weapons system, a major trade deal or some other bauble coveted by the Ukrainian authorities. It will be interesting to see what agreements are announced as a result of Azarov’s visit. We might even see a token of Israel’s esteem tucked into the deal somewhere.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.