The Syrian Prime Minister Who Was a French Double Agent and Tipped Off Zionist Leaders about British Plans

Nov. 24 2020

In 1945, Britain and France were rivals for control over the Middle East, and the former hoped to keep the Land of Israel under the authority of a friendly Arab ruler, while expanding its influence into the French protectorate of Syria. The British had at the time recruited Jamil Mardam Bey, a senior minister in the Syrian government, to work for them. When French intelligence caught him, they managed to turn him to their side. Meir Zamir, drawing on newly revealed archival materials, discovered something surprising about this relationship:

It all began in October 1945, when the French encountered a new problem. Mardam had been appointed Syria’s ambassador to Egypt and its envoy to the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, but the French had a hard time utilizing him there without arousing suspicion. The solution was to recruit Eliahu Sasson for the mission of relaying the information provided by Mardam.

Sasson, who was then the head of the Arab division of the Jewish Agency’s political department, had been appointed by the Agency’s head David Ben-Gurion in February 1945 to coordinate cooperation with French intelligence. The Syrian-born Sasson knew Mardam and had met with him in 1937, when the latter had served as prime minister, [a position to which he would later return]. The French, who were well acquainted with Sasson and thought highly of his operational capabilities, began to collaborate with him in handling Mardam.

From July 1945, Ben-Gurion had prepared for the possibility of an attack by the Arab states should the Jewish state declare its independence. But the information from Mardam turned the spotlight elsewhere. Ben-Gurion learned that the immediate threat to the establishment of the Jewish state lay not in an attack by Arab armies, but rather in the plan of British military commanders and intelligence agencies in the Middle East to thwart that development by various other means. These included declaring the Haganah militia a terrorist organization and disarming it, and implementing the “Greater Syria plan,” under which a limited Jewish entity would be created in Mandatory Palestine, but not an independent state.

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Read more at Haaretz

More about: British Mandate, France, History of Zionism, Syria

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia