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.