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The Lebanese Jewish Housewife Who Spied for Israel

Born in Argentina and raised in Jerusalem, Shulamit Kishik-Cohen—who died last week at the age of one-hundred—was married to a wealthy Jewish businessman in Beirut when she was only seventeen. Her career in intelligence began before Israel became a state and lasted until her arrest in 1961. After the Six-Day War, she was released as part of a prisoner exchange and lived out the rest of her life in Israel. Ofer Aderet writes (free registration may be required):

Due to her prominence in the local Jewish community, Kishik-Cohen managed to develop good relations with the Lebanese authorities and to gain the confidence of key people in the country’s leadership. Without ever planning to take such a path, she found she had access to valuable intelligence information. Then, just prior to the outbreak of Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, she began to hear talk of the “extinction of the Jews of the land of Israel,” and knew immediately that it related to military preparations for war against the Jews of Mandatory Palestine. . . .

She contacted officials in the Jewish community in British Mandatory Palestine and offered her services as a spy. In [her memoir], she describes the roundabout way in which she sent her first message to members of the Haganah (the underground, pre-independence army of Palestine’s Jews). She wrote a concealed message, using a method she had learned in the Girl Scouts, in a seemingly innocent-looking letter that on the surface appeared to be asking about how a sick relative was faring. Merchants who worked with her husband in the market in Beirut saw to it that it was passed along, and ultimately it reached its destination in Mandatory Palestine.

The message was understood loud and clear, and a short while later she received her first assignment in her new “profession.” From then until 1961, she operated a spy network that supplied Israel with intelligence information and engaged in smuggling Jews from Arab countries over the Lebanese border into Israel.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Haganah, Intelligence, Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Lebanon, Mandate Palestine

Israel Agreed Not to Retaliate During the Persian Gulf War—and Paid a Price for It

Feb. 19 2018

During the Persian Gulf War of 1991, Saddam Hussein fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel, killing one person and causing extensive property damage. Under intense pressure from the first Bush administration to sit still—ostensibly because Israeli involvement in the war could lead Arab states to abandon the White House’s anti-Iraq coalition—Jerusalem refrained from retaliating. Moshe Arens, who was the Israeli defense minister at the time, comments on the decision in light of information recently made public:

[W]hat was George H.W. Bush thinking [in urging Israel not to respond]? His secretary of state, James Baker, had accompanied the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles (Chas) Freeman, on a visit to King Fahd in Riyadh on November 2, 1990, two-and-a-half months before the beginning of the war, to obtain the king’s approval for additional deployment of U.S. troops in his kingdom in preparation for the attack on Iraq.

He was told by the king that although they would not welcome Israeli participation in the war, he understood that Israel could not stand idly by if it were attacked by Iraq. If Israel were to defend itself, the Saudi armed forces would still fight on America’s side, the king told Baker. So much for the danger to the coalition if Israel were to respond to the Scud attacks. Israel was not informed of this Saudi position.

So why was President Bush so intent on keeping Israel out of the war? It seems that he took the position, so dominant in the American foreign-policy establishment, that America’s primary interest in the Middle East was the maintenance of good relations with the Arab world, and that the Arab world attached great importance to the Palestinian problem, and that as long as that problem was not resolved Israel remained an encumbrance to the U.S.-Arab relationship. If Israel were to appear as an ally of the U.S. in the war against Iraq, that was likely to damage the image the U.S. was trying to project to the Arabs.

In fact, immediately upon the conclusion of the war against Saddam Hussein, Baker launched a diplomatic effort that culminated in the Madrid Conference in the hope that it would lead to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It didn’t. . . .

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: George H. W. Bush, Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Peace Process, Persian Gulf War, US-Israel relations