Text size

The head of the Mossad, Ephraim Halevy, is demanding that various officials in the Defense Ministry cease to carry out independent contacts with foreign countries, arguing that these relations are infringing upon the Mossad's area of responsibility.

Halevy expressed reservations last week following a decision by Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer to assign his adviser for Arab affairs, Colonel (res.) David Hacham, the job of making arrangements for his secret meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan in Amman.

The Mossad chief also confronted Yehiel Horev, in charge of the Defense Ministry's Security Department, on the issue of relations between the organization in areas of technology and procurement with dozens of other countries in Asia and Europe.

During the 1980s, Halevy was in charge of the foreign relations section of the Mossad, and then was deputy to the head of the organization. In that post he handled the close - and secret - relations between Israel and Abdullah's father, King Hussein. After his retirement from the intelligence organization, he was appointed ambassador at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, and was rushed back to assist repairing relations with Jordan after the botched Mossad attempt against Khaled Mashal of the Hamas, in Amman. He was then asked to take over the Mossad after the resignation of Danny Yatom following the affair.

The standing of the General Information Directorate, the Jordanian counterpart of the Mossad, was undermined last year when Abdullah transferred from its head the person in charge of secret contacts with Israel, Samih Batihi. The Ben-Eliezer visit to Amman was arranged through the office of the Jordanian Chief of Staff, General Muhammed Yusuf Milkhawi, and Hacham.

During his meeting with Ben-Eliezer, Halevy expressed opposition to this channel of communication, but the defense minister stood firm.

The confrontation between Halevy and Horev was even more intense. Halevy refuses to include Horev in the committee of the heads of the various intelligence services and is trying to take away some of the responsibilities of Horev's Security Department in connection with foreign countries.

Last year, former prime minister Ehud Barak appointed the former head of the Shin Bet, Avraham Shalom, to look into the sensitive aspects of the Security Department's activities abroad. At the end of his investigation, Shalom described the operations as superbly handled. Halevy was not satisfied and asked Rafael Vardi (Major General, res.) to determine the jurisdictions for each of the security and intelligence services, and rule that the Security Department must not infringe upon the Mossad ground.

Vardi refused, and Halevy had to make do with Horev's agreement that the Security Department will only operate in countries where significant Defense Ministry activities were being carried out with counterpart organizations.

There also appears to be tension mounting between the head of Military Intelligence, Major General Amos Malka, and Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz. Malka is refusing to step down from his post early in favor of his deputy and expected successor, Major General Aharon Farkash-Ze'evi, considered particularly close to Mofaz. Malka recently informed the defense minister that he will stay in his post until retirement, in the spring of 2002. By then a choice for a new chief of staff will have been made. Malka believes that Ze'evi needs more experience in his job before the promotion.