The Adventures of a Mossad “Associate”

Born in Jerusalem in 1943, Yossi has lived in more than a dozen countries, owns five passports under different names, and speaks Hebrew, Italian, and German fluently. After working as a Mossad agent for several years in the 1960s, he became a Mossad “associate”—a civilian who helps the organization from time to time. Robert Rockaway, drawing on interviews with Yossi, recounts some of his experiences, which include kidnapping the brother of an Egyptian newspaper editor, helping an Israeli escape from a Swiss prison where Yossi himself was also being held, and assassinating an Italian terrorist. But some of Yossi’s escapades were less glamorous, if no less important:

[W]hen Hafez al-Assad was president of Syria, Israeli officials knew that he was diabetic and had suffered a heart attack. Israeli officials wanted to find out just how sick he was. The Mossad knew that Assad was flying to the Hilton Hotel in Geneva. . . . Mossad agents came to the hotel before Assad arrived. They knew in which room Assad was staying, . . . took the room directly [underneath], and connected Assad’s toilet pipe to their own room’s toilet. When Assad went to the toilet they took samples of his stool and sent it to Israel for analysis as to whether he was sick. They found that Assad was indeed very sick and that his days were likely numbered. Some months later, Assad suffered a heart attack and died.

In 1980, Yossi moved to Hong Kong and worked for an American company. In 1986, . . . the Mossad asked him to take someone named Zvi Aharoni to work for him. Aharoni was a Mossad agent, who in 1960 had traced Adolf Eichmann to Argentina and identified him as Ricardo Klement.

The Mossad sent Aharoni to Yossi so that he, too, could legally live and work in Hong Kong and use it as his base for operations. By means of his German passport, Aharoni had been making contacts with foreign governments for Israel. At that time, Israel had no relations with China and Indonesia. . . . Aharoni secretly brought the Indonesian army chief of staff to Israel. He also did the same with the chief of staff of the Chinese army. This led to surreptitious contacts between these countries and Israel. China eventually established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hafez al-Assad, Israel-China relations, Israeli history, Mossad

Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy