Action Report masthead No.14, July 20, 1998

Mossad moves to reopen spy base in Britain

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[Article from The Daily Telegraph
London, April 5 1998]

by Uzi Mahnaimi Tel Aviv

WHEN Ephraim Halevy, the new British-born head of Mossad, starts work this week, his first target will be London. Eleven years after Margaret Thatcher shut down the Israeli foreign intelligence service's station in Palace Green, Kensington, and expelled its operatives, Halevy wants Mossad to resume its activities in Britain. Intelligence sources say Halevy considers the issue so important that he has already asked Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, to raise it when Tony Blair visits Israel later this month.

The negotiations will be delicate. A furious Thatcher, then prime minister, closed Mossad's London base in 1987 after it was discovered that Israeli agents had withheld from British intelligence information about a plot to assassinate a Palestinian journalist. Naji Ali, a cartoonist, was shot dead in a South Kensington street.

Although it has never entirely halted activities in Britain, Mossad's ability to operate has been seriously hampered by its "illegal" status.

Halevy believes Britain is the leading European centre for Arab and Muslim fundamentalists. Hamas, the fundamentalist Palestinian group that has sent a series of suicide bombers against Israeli targets, receives a significant amount of its funding from supporters in England.

Mossad wants help in stopping Hamas raise money, ostensibly for humanitarian causes, some of which is believed to go to the families of suicide bombers.

As well as providing information on Hamas, the new station would monitor British-based members and supporters of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia that is fighting the Israeli army in southern Lebanon, and would keep an eye on representatives of hardline Middle East states such as Iran, Iraq and Syria.


If anyone can persuade the British government to allow Mossad back in, it is Halevy. Brought up in north London, he is the nephew of the late Sir Isaiah Berlin, who was sent by Winston Churchill to the British embassy in Washington 25 years ago to liaise with American Jews and the Central Intelligence Agency. Their respect was mutual.

"Each time he was in London we met," Berlin once said of Halevy. "We never talked about intelligence matters even though I knew he was a Mossad man. This guy Ephraim is a true Israeli patriot who knows his job."

Halevy, 63, who left Britain for Israel as a teenager, proved his diplomatic skills in unusual fashion. In 1987 he was stopped by police for speeding at 100mph down the M4 on his way to represent Mossad at a secret meeting between King Hussein of Jordan and Shimon Peres, then Israeli foreign minister. He was let off without showing his Israeli diplomatic passport or his British one, and even persuaded the officers to escort him.

Halevy will need all his charm and talent, however, if he is to succeed in restoring the Israeli intelligence agency not only to London, but to its former reputation.

A one-time Mossad operative himself - he resigned after being refused the top job and served as ambassador to the European Union in Brussels until his appointment last month - Halevy is taking over an organisation deeply demoralised by a series of embarrassing blunders.

The agency has yet to recover from an operation in Jordan last September, when operatives were caught red-handed and imprisoned after trying to assassinate a Hamas leader on an Amman street by squirting poison into his ear.

It was Halevy's personal intervention with King Hussein, a long-standing friend, that soothed anger in the Arab country with which Israel has the warmest relations.

© Daily Telegraph, 1998

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