The Mossad Derby

Last night's World Cup matchup, between Germany and Australia, was not just any game - it was a derby. A derby between the countries the Mossad cheated, the ones who suspect the Israeli espionage agency of forging passports bearing their countries' names or acquiring them under false pretenses.

Before the dust even settled from the expulsion of the Israeli diplomat from Canberra, after the ejection of the resident head of Mossad in London, here comes the German demand for the arrest of another Israeli. These gentiles are just too much. They need to decide already: Do they want the Israelis to stay or go?

Germany, Australia, England (representing the U.K. ) and Ireland (outside the tournament ), are now fighting for the new World Cup: the Meir Dagan cup. The string of bad months for the head of the Mossad began when the Dubai police uncovered details about forged passports following the January assassination of Hamas strongman Mahmoud al-Mabhouh; continued with the British and Australian punitive action; moved on to the flotilla intelligence foul up; and reached a temporary peak last week with the arrest in Poland of a man by the name of Uri Brodsky, described as a Mossad agent against whom there is an arrest warrant in Germany.

The Brodsky affair is a sub-story of the Dubai case - but from a certain point of view it is even more serious than the previous chapters. The beginning of the story reflected arrogance, a mistaken calculation of cost-benefit and contempt for those Arabs in the Gulf. Dagan was never one to respect neighbors, those close or more distant.

It could have been expected that, from then on, more caution would follow every incitement. But if the reports coming out of Poland and Germany are correct, and a person who'd been involved in one or another way with the Dubai affair was sent out on another mission, in a European county linked to the Interpol system, this is no longer the mere adventures of a feisty gambler but serious negligence. So far, Dagan has only lacked a little finesse, a little polish. Now with the help of the Poles he'll be perfect.

If in different times certain government elements, whether part of security or the police, were willing to turn a blind eye, thanks to the Netanyahu-Lieberman-Barak government, Israel is now seen as a recalcitrant state. Netanyahu thinks, for some reason, that having good ties with Germany and Poland will grant him protection in such instances. In essence, he continues making frequent visits to the diplomatic cash machine, even though his card has been voided. Lacking any kind of credit, the ATM is now just a hole in the wall.

Israel lost in recent months top security friends both in Germany (the Chief of Staff, who resigned because of Afghanistan ) and Poland (where the Chief of Staff and senior officers died when the president's aircraft crashed ), but it still has a number of good, senior friends who are not willing to stand at attention to Israel's every whim. That same Israel needs Germany on issues from the Iranian nuclear program to kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Angela Merkel is indeed an angel; but she is also human.

The questions related to Mossad are fairly simple: How are decisions made? What kind of political calculation is taken into account in its operations? Does the agency even consult with the Ministry of Foreign affairs, and if so, with whom?

In order to find out the answers, one does not need to be a section chief at the Shin Bet security service. In fact, it would be best if one wasn't. That same A., who is now in trouble over a case of conflict of interest thanks to a reported romantic affair with another Shin Bet agent, investigated three years ago something Dagan wanted investigated. These sorts of investigations are best conducted by people outside the system of the heads of intelligence, an independent investigator for example, despite whatever opposition is raised by the Mossad and Shin Bet heads.

Here is a typical Israeli sort of coincidence: Attorney Eitan Peleg, who until last night was the attorney for A. and who knows the Prison Service well from the inside, is the brother of former ambassador to Warsaw, David Peleg. They, like anyone with eyes in their head, certainly know what Netanyahu and Dagan are now denying: The question is not how many Poles or even how many Mossad agents it takes to change a light bulb, but how many light bulbs must be lit before the head of the Mossad is replaced.