Israel expelled the military attache at the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv four months ago, in response to the expulsion several weeks earlier of the Israeli military attache in Moscow, according to a Foreign Ministry source.
Israel's move was part a policy of reciprocity, the source explained, although the expulsion of the Russian was kept secret so as not to further exacerbate tensions between the two countries.
Meanwhile, new attaches have been named instead of the two who were expelled, but they are acting under significant restrictions. The new Israeli military attache in Moscow has only met with a very few people in the Russian defense establishment.
The former Israeli attache, Col. Vadim Leiderman, was detained for questioning in Moscow by the security services in May 2011 and was thereafter expelled and declared persona non grata in Russia.
The Russians claimed he was collecting intelligence information on Russian weapons sales to Arab countries, and also attempted to aggressively promote the interests of Israeli defense industries in the Russian market.
After Leiderman's dismissal, a serious disagreement broke out between the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces over whether to take the same action against the Russian attache. The defense establishment pressed for implementing the policy of reciprocity, but the Foreign Ministry hesitated at first, even claiming the Israeli attache had overstepped his authority and acted against regulations, which caused his expulsion. The ministry noted that Leiderman was warned three times in writing by the Russian foreign affairs ministry that he was acting improperly, but nonetheless continued his activities.
The Defense Ministry and the IDF were furious over the accusations and said Leiderman was only cursorily informed about the Russian warnings, and was never given copies of the letters, so he did not understand the seriousness of the matter.
The defense establishment said the reason for the expulsion was Russia's desire to send a message to Israel on other matters that were not related to Leiderman's position.
In light of the dispute between the ministries, a number of high-level meetings have been held, including between Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. In the end, the Defense Ministry's position was accepted and the Russian attache was told to leave Israel.
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