THE AUSTRALIAN: “Mystique of Mossad its greatest weapon” by Greg Sheridan 15Feb13 February 15, 2013

by Greg Sheridan    -    The Australian     -    14 February 2013

FirefoxScreenSnapz001IT is not surprising the Israeli government is determined to say nothing publicly about Mossad, and certainly nothing about a former Australian who worked for the intelligence agency and ended up in an Israeli prison.

When I interviewed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a year or so ago, he said the fact he was seen as a bit of a heavy was probably no bad thing for Israel in its relations with its neighbours.

What is true for Netanyahu is true a thousand times over for Mossad. It is famously the most effective intelligence agency in the world, but it could not possibly be as effective as its reputation in the Arab world.

You need to spend some time in Arab countries to realise how ubiquitous, and at times absurd, is the legend of Mossad’s omnipotence.

It is, as you would expect, a highly secretive organisation. It is only a relatively few years ago that the name of its boss was released to the Israeli public.

I have met a number of former Mossad personnel who seem to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Arab world. They can tell you which cities to visit, almost which restaurant to go to, across the Middle East. I presume they didn’t do all this travelling on Israeli passports.

Some of Mossad’s exploits have indeed been astounding, none more so than the case of Eli Cohen, the agent who infiltrated himself into the very heart of the Syrian government in the 1960s. His intelligence played a critical role in the Six-Day War. Partly as a result of this, almost anything that is unpredictable in the Arab world will be attributed by some to the secret hand of Mossad.

A little like the Australian SAS, therefore, this very mystique, which derives from Mossad’s reputation, is itself a strategic asset for Israel.

If a former Mossad agent has ended up in an Israeli prison, this can only indicate that something has gone terribly wrong.

Apart from the inherent sensitivity of any information involved in the case, the Israelis would hate to admit publicly a problem with one of their agents.

This would undermine the mystique of super motivated, super capable Mossad agents combing all over the most sensitive parts of the world, working their magical craft to serve Israel’s interests.

There is one other factor that is central to Mossad’s success.

Although Israel is a vigorous and at times wildly irreverent democracy, Israeli society accepts the absolute necessity of Mossad, and the utter seriousness of its mission.

Therefore, while plenty of secrets are revealed in the energetic Israeli media, there is broad co-operation from Israeli society with Mossad.

There is nothing like the hostility to Mossad that the CIA, say, experienced in the US in the 1970s and 80s.

Mossad secrets, including secrets involving Australians, are very hard to crack.

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