In the past year, the U.S. government has adopted a radical new approach to Israeli spies seeking access to this country: it’s shut the door. Well, not entirely. But scores, if not hundreds of Israeli officials associated with the Shin Bet, Mossad, IDF, and defense industries have either had their visas rejected or they’ve been granted three-month stays instead of the multi-year stays they were offered previously:
The paper [Maariv] quoted a “senior [Israeli] security expert”, who said he had been denied an entry visa to the US this past January, for the first time in his career, despite having visited the US numerous times in the past “without trouble”. He told Maariv that he had “traveled to the US dozens of times in the past for my job and never faced issues getting a visa” on time.
This comes on top of the 20% rejection rate of Israeli civilians, many of whom attempt to enter the country with no visible means of employment or support.
The issue du jour in U.S.-Israel relations is the latter’s wish to enter the visa waiver program, which would supposedly allow free access to both countries by citizens of the other. For one thing, the U.S.’ increasing restrictiveness in the visa process doesn’t bode well for Israeli admission to this select club. For another, it confirms Jeff Stein’s recent Newsweek report which quoted anonymous U.S. counter-intelligence and security officials warning that Israel’s intelligence-espionage activity in the U.S. has broken red lines and amounts to some of the most intrusive activity among all nation’s active here.
You don’t even have to go all the way back to Jonathan Pollard to point to some of the egregious violations of the Israel-U.S. alliance in terms of security breaches. Since then, there’s been the Steve Rosen-Larry Franklin scandal and a number of others. After the al-Mabouh assassination, two Mossad assassins traveled from Dubai directly to the U.S. where, one may assume, there had cover as covert operatives.
Similarly, Dubai’s police chief accused Canada of actually detaining one of the Mossad assassins when he returned to Canada to resume his own secret identity. More recently, a Canadian journalist revealed that Canadian intelligence had actually provided the assassin with a new identity. This is the only time I’ve ever heard of a country offering a secret identity to an agent of a foreign country.
All this makes the Israeli foreign ministry denial that there is any espionage going on here seem not just hollow, but laughable. Diplomats are supposed to lie plausibly (at least). But that lesson is lost on Israelis.