The Egyptian Spy Who Might Have Saved Israel

Jan. 24 2017

In 1970, Ashraf Marwan—a chemistry student at a British university who happened to be Gamal Abdel Nasser’s son-in-law—telephoned the Israeli embassy in London and offered himself as an intelligence asset. Marwan, who soon became an important adviser to Nasser, continued spying for Israel until 1998. In The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel, Uri Bar-Joseph, an Israeli intelligence operative turned professor, tells Marwan’s story and goes to significant lengths to show—contrary to the claims of Eli Zeira, who served as the head of Israeli military intelligence during the Yom Kippur War—that he was not a double agent. Amy Newman Smith explains:

The argument about whom Marwan was actually working for cannot be untangled from the one surrounding Israel’s unpreparedness for the Yom Kippur War and the devastating casualties that resulted. . . .

Based largely on information from Marwan, by [1972] the Israelis had developed what they called “the concept,” an intelligence paradigm that held that Egypt would not launch a war without “weapons of deterrence,” primarily anti-aircraft batteries and missiles capable of hitting Israeli cities. But by the fall, plans were coming together to partner with Syria and engage in a limited war to take back only the eastern bank of the Suez Canal. Marwan passed along information on the developing war plans to [his handler]. The paradigm had changed, but not everyone in Israel felt the shift. . . .

Zeira and his organization continued its allegiance to “the concept” despite Marwan’s warnings as well as data from other sources. . . . When Egypt pushed back the date Marwan had initially passed on for the attack, Zeira used that to discount all the information, rather than seeing changes in plans as an inevitable feature of war planning. Fortunately for Israel, the IDF chief of staff David Elazar [took Marwan’s warnings more seriously]. The traumatic encounter between Israel and the allies Syria and Egypt that began on Yom Kippur in 1973 could have [otherwise] been much bloodier than it was.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Gamal Abdel Nasser, History & Ideas, Intelligence, Israeli history, Mossad, Yom Kippur War

Europe-Israel Relations Have Been Transformed

On Monday, Israel and the EU held their first “association council” meeting since 2012, resuming what was once an annual event, equivalent to the meetings Brussels conducts with many other countries. Although the summit didn’t produce any major agreements or diplomatic breakthroughs, writes Shany Mor, it is a sign of a dramatic change that has occurred over the past decade. The very fact that the discussion focused on energy, counterterrorism, military technology, and the situation in Ukraine—rather than on the Israel-Palestinian conflict—is evidence of this change:

Israel is no longer the isolated and boycotted outpost in the Middle East that it was for most of its history. It has peace treaties with six Arab states now, four of which were signed since the last association council meeting. There are direct flights from Tel Aviv to major cities in the region and a burgeoning trade between Israel and Gulf monarchies, including those without official relations.

It is a player in the regional alliance systems of both the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean, just as it has also become a net energy exporter due to the discovery of large gas deposits of its shoreline. None of this was the case at the last council meeting in 2012. [Moreover], Israel has cultivated deep ties with a number of new member states in the EU from Central and Eastern Europe, whose presence in Brussels bridges cultural ideological gaps that were once much wider.

Beyond the diplomatic shifts, however, is an even larger change that has happened in European-Israeli relations. The tiny Israel defined by its conflict with the Arabs that Europeans once knew is no more. When the first Cooperation Agreement [between Israel and the EU’s precursor] was signed in 1975, Israel, with its three million people, was smaller than all the European member states save Luxembourg. Sometime in the next two years, the Israeli population will cross the 10 million mark, making it significantly larger than Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Austria (among others), and roughly equal in population to Greece, Portugal, and Sweden.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Abraham Accords, Europe and Israel, European Union, Israeli gas