By Zuhair Andraos
Yesterday, Israeli reports revealed that the Israel's foreign intelligence agency, Mossad, was able to plant bugs in Mahmoud Abbas's (Abu Mazen) office in 1993 while he was Deputy Chairman of the PLO Executive Committee. It also revealed conflict between Abbas and then Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
The reports mention a double agent named Adnan Yasin, whom the Mossad provided with highly advanced bugging devices capable of functioning for 5 years without needing to be replaced. These were the types of bugs planted in Abbas' office.
In a report scheduled to be published on Friday and written by the strategic affairs analyst for the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Dr. Ronen Bergman, who is highly experienced in the Israeli security establishment, describes these bugging devices are as highly sophisticated. Moreover, according to security sources, in 1993, a number of senior officials in the Israeli security agencies were invited to a celebration in one of the Mossad headquarters' close to the city of Tel Aviv. The Director General of the Mossad at the time, Shabtai Shavit, informed the group that Israel was able to wiretap a main target, as well as the office of the second in command of this target.
The strategic analyst also said that as a result of this operation, Israel was receiving intelligence sourced from advanced bugging devices. Moreover, Dr. Bergman added that the talks were at a critical time. It was 3 months before the Oslo Accords were signed in September 1993; a time when contact between the Israelis and Palestinians was still in secret, and not even the Mossad knew – until they heard the recordings. Bergman added that the planting of the bugging devices in Mahmoud Abbas's office exposed much of the PLO's activities to Israel, and provided it with very valuable information regarding the charged relations between the PLO leadership, including the current PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, and former late Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat.
Furthermore, the analyst noted in his report that whoever wiretapped Abu Mazen's office, carried out one of the most important and most confidential operations at that time. In addition to this, the "Tzomet" unit, which means "crossroads" in Hebrew, which is responsible for enlisting agents for the Mossad, was able to enlist a senior official in the PLO leadership dubbed operation "Golden Wool" by the Mossad. This agent was able to plant two bugging devices in Abu Mazen's office, the first in his seat, and the second in a table lamp. Three and a half weeks later, the "golden wool" operation was called off; the devices were discovered, all communication was cut off and the Palestinian agent enlisted by Israel was discovered. According to the same security sources, he escaped execution under pressure from Israel.
Adnan Yasin was the deputy to the PLO Ambassador in Tunisia, Hakam Balawi, and was arrested by the Tunisian authorities on October 25, 1993, after receiving information from French security agencies concerning his activities and put under long observation.
Some sources believe that France exposed him after investigating the assassination of Palestinian security official, Atef Bseiso, in France in 1992. At the time, reports were published saying that the American Middle East Coordinator, Dennis Ross, had discovered a bugging device in Mahmoud Abbas's office using a device in his pen. Ross then requested that the Palestinian-American meetings be held in the Washington Embassy in Tunisia, however the Palestinian authorities refused.
Yasin confessed to working for the Mossad in 1991 while he was in France with his wife, who was being treated for cancer in French hospitals.
Based on the distribution of work between the Israeli intelligence, the Mossad enlists its agents through its Tzomet unit which responsible for recruiting agents while the Caesarea Unit carries out military operations. Agents are recruited in the base country before being sent to carry out missions in a target country; usually an enemy state or an organisation classified as terrorist by Israel which mainly target countries hosting resistance movements. The 504 Unit, which is connected to the "Aman" agents, in accordance with the distribution of work between this unit and the Mossad, is responsible for recruiting agents in Israeli areas bordering Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt, as well as in the PA areas. Yoshi Milman, an analyst for the "WALLA" website, says that this phenomenon was highlighted in Lebanon, especially since in specific years a third agency, the Shabak, i.e. the internal security agency, was added to the equation.
However, a new study published by the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv University has shed light on the organization of the Israeli intelligence agencies and severely criticised the performance of these agencies, especially on the issue of the lack of coordination between them.
The study was prepared by Dr. Shmuel Even and Dr. Amos Granit in the context of the intelligence and national security program. The study, entitled "Israeli Intelligence Agencies- Where to? Analysis, approaches, and recommendations," pointed out that changes need to be made to the formation of these agencies in order for Israel to face strategic challenges.
Moreover, the study stressed that the organizational structure of the intelligence agencies are frail, and not suitable for facing Israel's new security challenges, since they have no base, director, or president. In addition to this, apart from the Israeli Intelligence Community which is a volunteering committee with no authority, there are no supervisory organizations. The result of this is that the agencies do not have a joint plan of action; there is no coordination of the power structures between the various agencies and no comprehensive view to monitor their resources. The study points out that there is no central organization for these intelligence agencies, nor is there any guidance or monitoring of their activities. Instead, the management of the agencies falls on the agency itself; each agency manages itself with no action plan.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.