AG to Rule on Case of Egyptian Double-agent in 1973 War

The agent's warnings in 1973 of the impending Yom Kippur War spurred Israel's government to take defensive action.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein is due to announce a decision soon to close a case involving accusations by an ex-Mossad chief that a former head of Military Intelligence leaked the true identity of an alleged Egyptian double-agent. The agent's warnings in 1973 of the impending Yom Kippur War spurred Israel's government to take defensive action.

The MI chief during that war, Eli Zeira, and the Mossad chief at the time, Zvi Zamir, have been trading accusations for years, with Zamir accusing Zeira of responsibility for leaking the name of Ashraf Marwan as the ostensible master spy who, on October 5, 1973, met with his handler and with Zamir. At that time Marwan apparently told the two that Egypt and Syria were going to launch a war on Israel the following day.

Marwan died on June 27, 2007, after a fall from the balcony of his London home. Some suggest that he was pushed off the balcony.

Zamir and two former MI officers - Brig. Gen. (ret. ) Amos Gilboa and Col. (ret. ) Yossi Langotsky - suspect that it was Zeira's actions that led to the exposure of Marwan, who was married to the daughter of Egypt's former president, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Marwan's warning, which he delivered to Zamir at a meeting in London, was problematic because he had waited hours and perhaps days before delivering it, and because he said that Egypt's president at the time, Anwar Sadat, was 99 percent certain about going to war, although there was still 1-percent doubt.

The great unanswered question over the years was whether Marwan's warning was a subtle message from Sadat to Prime Minister Golda Meir which was intended to prevent bloodshed, or an attempt to drag Israel into a preemptive strike that would present Jerusalem as the aggressor.

Marwan's warning had a fateful impact on Israel's decision-makers. Until it was received, Meir, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff David Elazar had not convinced by similar warnings that Meir had received from Jordan's King Hussein on September 25, or from from agents in Egypt. Nor did the hasty departure from Egypt of Soviet advisers and their families in late September and early October convince Israel's leaders that war was imminent. The aerial photos of Egypt's emergency deployment along the Suez Canal were also not taken as conclusive evidence of imminent war.

The Israeli government was under pressure, knowing that Zamir was flying to London to meet Marwan, but still did not openly prepare for an attack or call up the reserves (which in retrospect would have given Israel a precious 30-hour advantage ).

But Zamir's phone call and then his telegram from London to his bureau chief, Fredi Eini, and a message from Eini to Israel's leaders finally changed their minds.

Marwan's warning went down in history as a rare intelligence achievement because it was authentic - unlike other information he supplied, which turned out to be false.

Veteran Mossad officials, among them some who considered other sources of intelligence no less valuable than Marwan, where shocked about a decade ago when Israeli and other researchers abroad mentioned Marwan's name explicitly. Without any direct proof, they pointed to Zeira as the source of the information.

Zeira never denied the mistakes made in assessments of Military Intelligence under his leadership, but dared to question the credibility of the most admired intelligence source in the Mossad.

Zamir was joined by the former MI officers Langotsky and Gilboa, who ostensibly held a grudge against their former commander because of other professional disagreements.

The exchange of accusations between Zamir and Zeira finally went to arbitration before former Supreme Court Justice Theodor Orr. The latter accepted Zamir's version of Zeira's contribution to the revelation of Marwan's name.

On the basis of Orr's decision, a complaint was filed with Weinstein's predecessor, Menahem Mazuz. The police and the State Prosecutor's Office subsequently collected and scrutinized evidence and for the past two years the file has been on Weinstein's desk.

Weinstein is now going to decide what perhaps could have already been decided at the beginning of the affair. The case is important, intriguing and could affect the willingness of intelligence sources to work for Israel, but it is not a matter for an indictment.