Israeli Minister's Chief of Staff Causes Diplomatic Incident With Bulgaria

Israeli envoy to Sofia called in for clarifications after Minister Ayoob Kara's chief of staff met with Syrian opposition members, presenting himself as a special envoy for the Israeli government.

The deputy minister for the development of the Negev and Galilee, Ayoob Kara, and his bureau chief Mendi Safadi, have incited a diplomatic incident between Israel and Bulgaria.

The Foreign Ministry in Sofia requested Israeli ambassador to Bulgaria Shaul Kamisa's presence at an urgent meeting, meant to clear up the nature of Safadi's visit to Bulgaria in July, during which he met with Syrian opposition leaders and claimed to be a special envoy representing the Israeli government.

On Monday, Kamisa received a phone call from the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry, during which he was requested to attend a meeting on Wednesday, with Valeri Ratchev, head of the political cabinet and Foreign Ministry chief. Ratchev's office reported that the meeting is in regards to Safadi's visit to Bulgaria.

Last week, I wrote a post here in "Diplomania," about the message sent by Kamisa to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, in which Israel's ambassador to Bulgaria complained about Safadi's visit, during which the latter presented himself during media interviews as the Israeli government's official envoy for dialogue with the Syrian opposition.

Following the invitation to the meeting, Kamisa sent another message to Jerusalem, in which he explained that the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry is seeking to clear up the nature of and reasons for Safadi's visit to Bulgaria, and will ask the following questions: Was Safadi's visit officially sanctioned by Jerusalem? Does Israel have any relationship with Syrian opposition, and did Safadi hold any meetings with Syrian opposition leaders? Lastly, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry wants to know the Israeli position regarding the Syrian opposition.

"All ties between Bulgaria and the Syrian opposition are managed by the Bulgarian Foreign Minister, with great secrecy," wrote Ambassador Kamisa to the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.

 "Every so often, we receive updates regarding those ties.  I would like to receive written guidelines for the meeting, and answers, should I be questioned by local media," continued Kamisa in his message.

Kamisa also wrote in his message that he believes the invitation to the meeting is the result of articles published in local media, which quoted Haaretz reports regarding Safadi's peculiar visit to Bulgaria.

Following the message Kamisa sent to Jerusalem last week, in which he complained about Safadi's visit, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to issue a warning to deputy minister Ayoob Kara, and request that he put a stop to Safadi's activities. Kara denied that he had spoken with Safadi, or had any knowledge of his bureau chief to Bulgaria.

When I spoke to him last week, Safadi claimed that his journey to Bulgaria and meetings with Syrian opposition leaders were sanctioned by a secret Israeli government entity.  “There are things the ambassador doesn’t know,” Safadi told me.

 “There are also things I do that Deputy Minister Kara doesn’t know about, which I can’t expand on in the media. If, in addition to his official position, a public servant can do service for another body that belongs to the same government, then he does it," continued Safadi.