Suspected Mossad agent nabbed in Warsaw in connection with Dubai hit
Berlin seeking extradition of Israeli who used German passport, but Poland says no decision has been made and feels trapped between two allies
An Israeli citizen was arrested in Warsaw last week on suspicion of involvement in the assassination in January of a senior Hamas figure in Dubai. The man, whose Israeli passport identifies him as Uri Brodsky, was arrested when he landed at Warsaw's airport after Germany issued an international warrant for his arrest.
The arrest has raised deep concerns in Israel of a deepening diplomatic imbroglio over the hit on the Hamas leader, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
Brodsky is suspected of working for the Mossad in Germany and of giving logistical support to the killers of Mabhouh, who was using a German passport. Word of Brodsky's arrest broke yesterday on the Web site of the German weekly Der Spiegel, which is expected to publish more details this week.
Officials in the German federal prosecutor's office in Karlsruhe confirmed the arrest; they said they would seek Brodsky's extradition.
The Polish authorities have reportedly not yet decided how to proceed. According to Der Spiegel, the Israeli embassy in Warsaw has asked the Polish government not to approve Brodsky's extradition to Germany. If he is extradited, Brodsky would be tried under suspicions of espionage, not for involvement in the hit on Mabhouh. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem yesterday confirmed the Der Spiegel report.
It was reported in February that one of the passports used in the Mabhouh hit was German, issued in Cologne in June 2009 to a man named Michael Bodenheimer. Bodenheimer presented documents entitling him to a German passport based on the fact that his parents, who lived in Germany, were persecuted by the Nazis.
The real Michael Bodenheimer is a rabbi who lives in Bnei Brak. Brodsky is suspected of assisting the agent who used Bodenheimer's name to receive the passport in Cologne.
A Polish source told Haaretz that no decision had been made on an extradition. The source also declined to say where Brodsky was being held. Brodsky, who says he is a businessman and has no connection to the events, was arrested based on information provided by the Dubai and United Arab Emirates police and on an international arrest warrant issued in Germany via Interpol.
A German spokesman said the final decision was solely up to the Polish government.
Germany and Poland have an extradition agreement, both bilateral and through European treaties. The extradition matter, however, is complex and could prove long and drawn out. The Polish source added that Poland feels embarrassed and trapped between two countries it views as friends.
Poland is considered one of Israel's greatest friends anywhere in the world, let alone the European Union. They have close ties including economic agreements, arms deals, cultural relations and support by Poland for Israel in international forums, especially the United Nations. According to foreign reports, Israel and Poland also also have covert ties through their intelligence communities.
Evidence of those ties can be seen in the fact that the arrest was kept under wraps in Poland; the news was broken by a German media outlet. Even after the story broke, the Polish media played it down yesterday, basing their reporting on the Der Spiegel report.
Germany is also considered one of Israel's best friends, including decades-long ties between the Mossad and the German foreign intelligence service.
It may be assumed that even if Brodsky is extradited to Germany it will be on on suspicion of belonging to a foreign organization and not on the suspicions of which Dubai is accusing him.
Moreover, Berlin is not likely to extradite him to Dubai, especially because the name Uri Brodsky does not appear on any list the Dubai police gave Interpol. That list contains 36 names from Britain, Australia, France, Ireland and one name from Germany, Michael Bodenheimer, who may be Brodsky himself.
The Dubai hit may have been a success operationally, but it has severely damaged Israel diplomatically. Britain has expelled the Mossad representative in the Israeli embassy in London, followed by Australia's expulsion of the Mossad representative in Canberra. Australia said Israel had contravened secret agreements between the two countries signed in 2004.
Since there is no Mossad representative in Ireland, Dublin is reportedly considering expelling the Israeli embassy's security officer.
Israel is concerned that following the expulsion of Mossad officials from those countries, Berlin and Paris may follow suit or take even more drastic steps.
The Foreign Ministry said yesterday that the its consul in Warsaw has met with the Israeli and has given him all assistance available to Israelis who get into trouble abroad.
Israel is treating the arrest with kid gloves, involving only a few senior officials in Jerusalem and the Israeli ambassador in Warsaw, Zvi Ravner. The Israeli embassy in Berlin has heard about the case from the media only, and has not been approached by the German authorities about it.