Must See Video – The Nazi Hunter: Capturing the Architect of the Holocaust

A thrilling true-crime story of how secret agent Zvi Aharoni hunted down one of the highest-ranking Nazi war criminals on the run in Argentina in 1960. Read more: https://www.theatlantic.com/video/ind… “The Driver Is Red” was directed by Randall Christopher (https://www.thedriverisred.com). It is part of The Atlantic Selects, an online showcase of short documentaries from independent creators, curated by The Atlantic. Subscribe to The Atlantic on YouTube: http://bit.ly/subAtlanticYT

Revealed – Upheaval in the Mossad

Far from the spotlights, the new director of the Mossad replaced his entire senior staff, the exasperating body transfer affair is only another link in the chain of blunders in the handling of Gilad Shalit’s release, the battle over defense establishment funds being waged in the Knesset reaches new depths of entanglement.

The Mossad is an organization that acts in the shadows, as it should. Under a heavy cloak of secrecy it has undergone an upheaval in recent months. This is not something that everyone driving by the Mossad’s hilltop headquarters (ask any Israeli the “secret” location) is aware of, but a sea change, at least at the personnel level, has definitely taken place.

The shake up began with the appointment of Tamir Pardo as Mossad director on January 6. While the reshuffling at the senior level was underway, the outgoing head of the organization, Meir Dagan, captured the lion’s share of public attention in a series of admonishments and phillippics against an attack on Iran. In the meantime, Pardo quietly replaced the entire Mossad senior staff.

Background input: Pardo is one the few directors who grew up within the organization and was not parachuted onto it from the outside. He joined the ranks after a short stint as a signal corps officer. (His memoirs of the Operation Entebbe were recently published in the intelligence corps’ heritage magazine. Pardo was the chief radio operator for the commander of the operation, Yoni Netanyahu – the only Israeli military fatality in the hostage rescue.) For decades Pardo served heart and soul in Mossad operations, but when he reached the top level a few years ago – his advancement hit the wall. The reason: the continuous extension of Meir Dagan’s tenure.

When Pardo realized that the pinnacle of the pyramid was occupied, he temporarily left the organization for a position in the IDF (among other things he was involved in the development of special capabilities and planning of special ops in the Second Lebanon War). He returned to the Mossad as the deputy director, but again departed in 2009 after Dagan’s term was extended for another year. It seems that Dagan’s protracted hold on the top office did not suit Pardo’s nature.

As a private citizen, Pardo was helping the Israeli entrepreneur Noam Lanir set up a company specializing in the export of medical services to wealthy Russians, when the decision was made to appoint him “chief” of the Mossad. Since entering office six months ago, Pardo has maintained his predecessor’s tradition of active operations while introducing a major organizational reconfiguration. Pardo’s managerial methods are definitely not those of Dagan. Without anyone outside of the Mossad taking note, Pardo replaced all of the key department heads.

This is what happened in the special ops departments “Keshet” and “Caesarea”. New chiefs were also brought into the intelligence department; the political action and liaison department, responsible for the organization’s international contacts; and even the human resources section. The new head of the political action and liaison department served until recently as head of the intelligence department. His deputy, Z., the new head of the research department, was formerly the director of counter-terror in the intelligence corps. Z.’s deputy in the Mossad, A., was also Z.’s deputy in the intelligence corps research section. Furthermore, the person who until very recently headed the Mossad’s human resources section, Brigadier General (res.) Yosi Peretz, the former the chief officer of the IDF’s adjutant corps, was appointed director of human resources at Bank Discount a few days ago. The outgoing head of the political action and liaison department department, David Primo, was also in the news recently when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked him to head the negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit.

Shalit: an ongoing fiasco

Just as this column has mentioned on more one occasion in the past weeks, serious contacts are being held with Hamas on a possible deal for the release of Gilad Shalit.

Actually it is against this setting that Israel’s (mis)handling of the bodies’ transfer to the Palestinians this week is so infuriating. According to the press, the imbecility began with a meeting between senior members of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the heads of Israel’s Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria. The Palestinians came away convinced that Israel had agreed to hand over 84 bodies. Political figures in Israel officially approved the report, and the IDF Spokesperson even published a statement that the transfer would proceed according to the “prime minister’s decision.”

Then, a sudden turnabout occurred. After midnight, on the evening between Monday and Tuesday, Ehud Barak’s office issued a statement that the defense minister would reexamine the list of the Palestinian bodies in light of the protest voiced by the victims of terrorist events and the concern that a valuable bargaining chip might be lost in the negotiations for Gilad Shalit’s return. The Israeli journalist Ben Caspi, writing in the daily Ma’ariv, shed light on the murky matter.

According to Caspi, the IDF Spokesperson’s announcement had been prearranged with the defense minister’s office to purposely use the unprecedented expression “the prime minister’s decision” rather than the “political echelon’s” (which naturally includes Defense Minister Ehud Barak). If indeed Barak set a trap for Netanyahu in order to cast himself as the “responsible figure” in the government, as Caspi claims, then he could have also exploited the relative lack of experience of new IDF Spokesperson, Brigadier General Yoav (Poli) Mordechai) (head of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria until last year). In addition, the director of the media department in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Colonel Ofer Kol, is stepping down from his position this week (Ariela Ben Avraham, promoted to colonel last Thursday, is his replacement).

The inept handling of the bodies’ transfer is nothing compared to the recurrent blunders in the Gilad Shalit affair, most of which have been discussed in detail in this column. Three weeks ago the Israeli soldier completed five years in captivity.

Northern Command: mistakes fated to be repeated

As the fifth anniversary of the Second Lebanon War approaches, it is time to recall that the war broke out when many of the senior officers in the Northern Command were still new at their jobs.

For example, the general of Northern Command, Udi Adam, and the head of the Galilee Division, Gal Hirsh, were less than a year in their positions. Northern Command’s chief intelligence officer, Yosi Beidetz (now completing his succeeding post as head of the intelligence corps’ research department) had been in Northern Command barely a month when the war erupted, and the list goes on.

Now we can note that the IDF is fully prepared for the heavy rioting expected in September if and when the Palestinians realize their plans to declare unilateral statehood. Last May we received a “taste” of what is likely to occur. This, of course, refers to “Nakba Day” [Israel’s Independence Day which, for the Palestinians, signifies “Catastrophe Day” dating back to 1948] when hoards of Syrians stormed the border on the Golan Heights. As September approaches the IDF is vigorously stockpiling “non-lethal” weapons, holding field exercises, preparing for a large-scale mobilization of the reserves, and scheduling training programs and courses so that the conscript units will be free for operational duty in the territories and on the borders. The assessment is that like “Nakba Day,” in September, too, Northern Command will have to deal with an onslaught of stubborn, resolute, violent protesters on the northern borders.

But has the IDF learned all the lessons of 2006? Apparently not. Look at the facts: during August, a few weeks before the expected explosion, one after the other, the general of Northern Command, commander of the Galilee Formation (who has responsibility for the Lebanese border), the commanders of the 36th and Challenger Divisions, and, but what else, Northern Command’s chief intelligence officer will all be replaced. A blunder fated to repeat itself? It would seem so.

Mofaz fights

A final word. Another “hot” issue that occupied the defense establishment this week was a matter of money – lots of money.

The veteran journalist Nahum Barnea first broke the story in the daily Yediot Achronot last Friday. Barnea revealed that the director general of the defense ministry, Major General (res.) Udi Shani, has been banging on tables to free money designated for the defense ministry, money that was legally approved by the Knesset for the defense budget.

It turns out that close to three billion shekels have been held up for sundry reasons since the beginning of the year. The result: the defense ministry has accumulated a debt of hundreds of millions of shekels that it owes to each of the major defense industries that supply the IDF with weapons.

A week has passed since the exposé and the issue only becomes more empretzeled. A brief explanation is in order. The defense budget is passed biannually. It is unlike the budgets of the other ministries that the Knesset’s finance committee votes on, in that the defense budget is approved as a single flow without the possibility of debate on each specific section. The reason for this is to prevent any leaks of security secrets in the finance committee plenum.

In order to oversee the defense budget, a special committee of ten Knesset members is appointed: half of them from the finance committee and half from the foreign affairs and defense committee, and all of them have the requisite security clearance level. The chairman of the joint committee is a figure is whose security credentials are of the highest order, unimpeachable to the nth degree – the former chief of staff and defense minister, Knesset Member Shaul Mofaz.

According to procedure, those who can delay the money flow to the defense establishment are the finance ministry (if it doesn’t bring the regular defense budget to the finance committee for approval), the chairman of the finance committee (if he doesn’t order payment to the joint committee for approval), and, of course, Shaul Mofaz’s joint committee.

Back to the facts: the security budget has suffered lately from the iron fist of all three players. The finance ministry is withholding the money, the finance committee is delaying (for coalition reasons) approval of the budget that the finance ministry has already approved (a disheartening development for the defense industries as of last Tuesday: the finance committee is freezing 620 million shekels due to various coalition demands), and even Knesset Member Shaul Mofaz has locked horns with the defense establishment in recent weeks, fighting it “tooth and nail.”

For the first time it appears that the former chief of staff is demanding his right to scrutinize the money designated for four defense projects, as well as the sources of their funding. Moreover, Mofaz wants to check the money intended for Elbit’s DAP (Digital Army Program), and a joint program between Elbit and the defense and finance ministries for the establishment, in the south of the country, of a plant, partially funded by the state, for the production of state-of-the art communications equipment for the IDF.

Mofaz is determined to oversee the defense establishment and not merely serve as a rubber stamp that gives the green light to all of its budgets. In the meantime, discussions in the Knesset focus only on legal niceties: does Mofaz’s committee have the authority to examine the sources of financing of certain defense budgets or only what the money is intended for. By the end of this week the funds appear to be frozen solid. Thus the leaders of the defense industries may soon find themselves knocking on the doors of the bank directors asking for loans to tide them over until the defense funding thaws and the cash flows again.

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Photos:
Director of the Mossad, Tamir Pardo (Photo: Flash 90)
Gilad Shalit (Photo: AP)
Member of Parliament, Shaul Mofaz (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)