Omar Sayid and Amir Makhoul
Security forces arrested Omar Sayid (left) and Amir Makhoul in April 2010. Photo by Itzik Ben Malchi
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The Shin Bet security service, at least, seems to have learned its lesson from the Anat Kamm affair. Especially from the long delay in removing the gag order, which remained in place despite numerous Internet and foreign media reports.

In the latest affair, one rally and a brief Internet campaign by Israeli Arab organizations were enough to make the Shin Bet think again. The details the court allowed to be published yesterday apparently do not obstruct the investigation. On the other hand, the partial lifting of the gag order keeps the arrests of Omar Sayid and Ameer Makhoul from turning into a secret "security case" that is magnified for no reason other than the mystery surrounding it.

The suspicions being investigated against the two are severe, but it must be said that at this stage they are only that. It is yet to be seen whether they will lead to indictments, or to convictions.

This is not a unique case. In recent decades, more frequently since the Israel Defense Forces left South Lebanon, 10 years ago, Hezbollah has attempted, apparently with limited success, to operate agents in Israel. Several of these efforts have been uncovered and foiled. In most cases the recruits were Israeli Arabs, and included one former Galilee local council head.

When the suspects are Muslim or Christian - that is, from communities whose members do not usually serve in the Israeli military, in contrast to the Druze and Bedouin - the potential for damage is limited. A civilian who is suspected of working for Hezbollah is not exposed to the same security information as Lt. Col. Omar al-Hayeb, a tracker in the Northern Command who was convicted of spying for the organization. On the other hand, ties with Israeli Arab political activists could serve Hezbollah for other purposes, such as coordinating political positions, joint moves with Hamas in the territories or initiating protests and riots during sensitive periods.

Hezbollah's most conspicuous spy handler is Keis Obeid, a drug dealer from Taibeh who fled to Lebanon a decade ago and was involved in the abduction of Col. (res. ) Elhanan Tennenbaum. Obeid developed extensive ties with Palestinian terror cells in the West Bank.

About two years ago former MK Azmi Bishara (Balad ) was suspected of passing information to Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War, in exchange for large sums of money. Bishara fled Israel, precluding a trial in which the Shin Bet's accusations could be examined.

Bishara has since become a leading commentator on Israeli and Middle East affairs for Al Jazeera. He no longer attempts to disguise his support for Hezbollah and for Syria.

In light of the Bishara affair, Balad Party founders Sayid and Makhoul (the latter has since resigned from the party ) could have been expected to be more careful and to assume that party activists are under Shin Bet surveillance.

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