NOTE: Middle East Eye today published my piece on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 War. I took a decidedly more contrarian-critical approach than the typical liberal Zionist ‘shooting and crying’ report you’ll find in most world media. Please read and share via social media.
גורם ביטחוני ישראלי: השב”כ פועל בשטח ירדן ושירות הביטחון הירדני פועל בשטח ישראל, בסמכות ורשות
NRG (an Adelson paper) reporter Netael Bendel decided to take a quick trip to a forbidden place: Qatar. Almost all Arab countries are forbidden to Israelis both because they have no diplomatic relations and because they are considered enemy states as a result of the 1948 War.
But that hasn’t stopped Israeli-Palestinian citizens and some reporters from visiting places like Lebanon and Syria. Usually to their regret, when the intelligence services or settler nationalists begin clamoring for their arrest. Generally, the journalists get off with a warning while the Arabs get prison terms. So it goes in the Land of Milk and Apartheid.
Bendel decided to take a 24-hour visit to Qatar’s capital, Doha. Possibly because he had no foreign passport, he could only use his Israeli one. That left him open to being stopped, detained and sent home. But it also created an interesting dilemma for authorities in Doha when he arrived at the airport. Immigration officials, after considerable questioning and confusion about his purpose in visiting, permitted him to remain in Qatar as long as he promised to remain in his hotel the entire visit. Being a dutiful reporter he lied and agreed to the terms. Once he arrived at his hotel, he promptly defied his orders and took a taxi to see the town, which impressed him considerably.
Aside from some Israeli pablum about Qatar being a haven for terrorism, which Bendel probably picked up from another Adelson paper, Israel HaYom, Bendel was suitably impressed by Qatar’s sights. Though he seemed to have done little preparation for his visit in terms of reading about the country and its culture (he was, for example, astonished not to see any women on the streets).
What was most newsworthy about his trip was his return to Israel. He flew from Doha to Jordan. When he arrived he was met by security officers who’d been alerted by Qatari intelligence about his presence there. They approached him speaking English, but once they determined he was Israeli they immediately switched to Hebrew. At that point he realized they were Shabak agents. Here Bendel buries the lede by not recognizing this is the most newsworthy part of his trip. Until now, no one in Israel knew that the Shabak maintained an official (though covert) presence in Jordan. No Israeli has ever revealed being questioned by Shabak agents in Jordan. In fact, it seems a rather foolish thing to do if you wish to maintain your cover in a country which isn’t the most welcoming to Israelis.
The Israeli agents detained him and proceeded to question him in minute detail about the reasons for his visit, what he visited and when. It would appear that they wanted to account for every minute he spent in Qatar (which they could do thanks to its extensive CCTV surveillance system), possibly to confirm he was not engaging in freelance terrorism, diplomacy, or commercial enterprises on anyone’s behalf. After a warning about not traveling to countries forbidden to Israelis, he was released and returned home.
After questioning a well-informed Israeli security source, he reluctantly confirmed the story and added another blockbuster fact: Jordanian intelligence (GID) maintains its own formal presence in Israel as well. Thus both countries maintain intelligence presences on each other’s soil. I already knew and reported that the two intelligence services maintained exceedingly close ties regarding the Dirar Abu Sisi case, in which the Gazan was detained by Jordanian intelligence at the behest of the Shabak, who later kidnapped him in the Ukraine.
These ties were also reaffirmed by the Al Jazeera report that the source of the ISIS intelligence offered by Donald Trump to his Russian friends in their White House meeting originated not from Israeli intelligence, but from the Jordanians, who relayed it to the Israelis. The vast majority of news outlets have misreported that Israel was the original source of this information.
Given the extensive efforts by Israel’s far-right political leadership to forge alliances with Sunni dictatorships like those in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and elsewhere, it’s not surprising that Israeli intelligence would be forging new bonds with these Arab security services. In fact, Israeli security consultants have massive contracts to provide surveillance and security equipment to autocratic regimes of the Gulf States. But until now, no one knew an Arab state had a permanent intelligence presence inside Israel and vice versa. That’s news.
The upshot is: if you’re Israeli and seeking to visit a hostile country don’t travel via Jordan.