Drug Boomerang

Drug trafficking is a well-known means used by terror organizations, underground movements, and espionage and governmental agencies.

This past week we learned of the arrest of a number of suspects involved in drug trafficking on the Lebanese border. Among others arrested, in two separate cases, were an Israel Defense Forces noncommissioned officer and couriers suspected of possession of more than 30 kilograms of pure heroin. The police said this was the "largest quantity of heroin ever captured on the northern border," and estimated its street value at tens of millions of shekels.

This might be said to be the tip of the iceberg. Since Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, 24 IDF soldiers and civilians have been arrested for involvement in drug trafficking, including officers, both Jews and Arabs, as well as police.

Drug trafficking on that border has a fixed pattern: Hezbollah allows Lebanese dealers to smuggle drugs into Israel, in exchange for which they provide Hezbollah, through their Israeli contacts, with intelligence information on the deployment of the IDF in the North, and purchase maps and equipment for Hezbollah.

One conspicuous case that made headlines was that of Col. (res.) Elhanan Tennenbaum. Hezbollah used an Israeli citizen, Kais Obeid - a member of a family of drug dealers from Taibeh who joined the organization - to entice Tennenbaum, a swindler who had gone bankrupt, to meet him in Europe and from there to go to the Emirates, where he was abducted. The bait Obeid set for Tennenbaum was a large, lucrative drug deal. To this day the IDF's field security department does not know for sure what military secrets Tennenbaum gave to the enemy.

Drug trafficking is a well-known means used by terror organizations, underground movements, and espionage and governmental agencies. It has been and is still used by Hezbollah, FARC in Columbia, the Taliban in Afghanistan, the CIA and others. Even if it is not Hezbollah's strategic goal, that organization can certainly enjoy the added value of drugging and weakening Israeli society. This phenomenon is of concern both to the Shin Bet security service and to the IDF.

A number of the biggest drug barons in the Middle East, among them the Biro and the Nahara families, have had close connections to the authorities in Israel. Ramzi Nahara was a police informer and in the 1980s, Mohammed Biro, at least reportedly, hosted defense minister Moshe Arens when he toured southern Lebanon. Biro and Nahara also worked with Hezbollah during their eventful careers.

Biro died in 2003 in Israeli prison, and his body was returned to Lebanon as part of the deal to release Tennenbaum. Nahara also did a stint in an Israeli jail before being released to Lebanon in the previous prisoner and body exchange in 1996. He died when his car exploded mysteriously in southern Lebanon in 2002, in an incident the Lebanese media chalked up to Israeli intelligence.

Drug smuggling from Lebanon and the willingness of IDF officers such as Louai Balut, and of some officers in the Israel Police, to cooperate directly with drug traffickers and indirectly with Hezbollah, has blown up in our faces.