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The legal authorities, the Israel Defense Forces and the intelligence services must not continue with business as usual after the ruling published last week on the libel suit filed by former Military Intelligence chief Eli Zeira against former Mossad chief Zvi Zamir. In the arbitration ruling, retired Supreme Court justice Theodor Or determines that Zeira leaked to journalists and historians, on several occasions, the name of a top agent who worked for the Mossad on the eve of the Yom Kippur War. The ruling also casts doubt on the credibility of Zeira's testimony and accuses him of coordinating testimony with other witnesses.

The agent in question is Ashraf Marwan, the son-in-law of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and a close associate of Nasser's successor, Anwar Sadat. On Friday night, October 5, 1973, Marwan personally informed "D.," his operator at the Mossad, and Zamir, who was then Mossad chief, that "war will break out tomorrow evening."

The leak by Zeira, a retired major general, is unprecedented in its seriousness, and was motivated by a desire to protect his personal and professional honor. Zeira, who lost his position due to his part in the war's failures, has been trying ever since to undermine the Agranat Commission's conclusions that pertain to him. By disseminating the thesis that Marwan was a double agent who fooled his operators, Zeira sought to diminish his responsibility for the prewar intelligence failure and share it with the Mossad, which operated Marwan. Most experts from Military Intelligence reject Zeira's thesis. Committees of inquiry that were established at the Mossad and Military Intelligence concluded clearly that Marwan was not a double agent and was not operated by Egyptian intelligence.

Zeira undoubtedly has the right to defend his professional honor. He could have done this at the Agranat Commission and at the committees of inquiry conducted by the IDF and the intelligence authorities. But it was definitely forbidden for him to leak the agent's name. This is not a technical question of whether he had the authority to do this (he did not), and it is not a legal issue of whether the military censor allowed him to reveal the name as he claims (the censor vehemently denies this).

Protecting agents' identities is the very soul of an intelligence organization. This is even more acute in the case of Israeli intelligence, and particularly the Mossad, which promises all its agents - from the least significant to the most important - that their names will be protected forever.

As the former head of military intelligence, Zeira knows this particularly well. Nonetheless, he chose to violate this ironclad rule. The ramifications of his actions are far-reaching. Every agent being operated today and every agent recruited in the future will carefully weigh whether it is worthwhile to work for a state that reveals the names of agents.

Zvi Zamir is now demanding that the attorney general reinvestigate this affair. Attorneys general Elyakim Rubinstein and Menachem Mazuz have ignored similar demands in the past. The former defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, also avoided dealing with this subject. In discussions held three years ago at the Mossad, the prevailing opinion was that it was best to ignore the suspicions about leakage that had already been raised against Zeira.

Now it is no longer a matter of suspicions. An authorized judge has affirmed that Zeira is responsible for one of the gravest acts in the history of the intelligence community. The attorney general has an obligation to order an investigation into the case. The authorities have a range of measures they can employ: indictment, reprimand, lowering Zeira's rank or even stripping him of his rank of major general. If another person who lacks Zeira's status had committed a similar act, he would have been a candidate for indictment for revealing state secrets, or even worse.