JERUSALEM (Jun. 19)
Israel expressed official regret Sunday over the British expulsion of an Israeli diplomat, but unofficially Jerusalem is seething with anger, according to some sources.
Arye Regev, an alleged agent of Mossad, the Israeli secret intelligence agency, was ordered out Friday and given a month to leave Britain, with his wife and daughter. He had been on the staff of the Israel Embassy in London for four years.
The British also ousted an official of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Zaki al-Hawa, a press officer at the PLO’s London office.
Political sources here said Israel had not acted against British interests and noted that this is the first time an Israeli diplomat has been deported from a friendly country.
But last October, another attache at the London Embassy, Jacob Barad, was declared persona non grata while on home leave in Israel and was not permitted to return. Regev and Barad allegedly coordinated Mossad’s anti-terrorist activities in Britain.
According to British news accounts, Regev and Barad were operating an Arab double agent, Ismail Sawan, 28, who was involved in storing arms for a PLO terrorist, Abdul Rahmim Mustapha.
Sawan was sentenced to 11 years in prison last Thursday for possession of hand grenades and assault rifles. Mustapha is suspected of arranging the murder last year of Ali al-Adhami, a Palestinian cartoonist living in London.
Britain reportedly was aggravated because Regev and Barad failed to advise British intelligence of what they supposedly learned from Sawan. Israeli sources said they had no knowledge of the Adhami murder.
NO RECIPROCAL ACTION PLANNED
Israel is not expected to take any countermeasures to the British move, in order not to widen the rift with London. But officials here are furious over the expulsion order, Yediot Achronot reported Sunday.
The newspaper quoted a senior Israeli personality as saying the ouster of Regev was “an act of hypocrisy and revenge which is both unbearable and incomprehensible.”
Analyst Ron Ben-Yishai, writing in Yediot Achronot, said British sensitivity was cumulative, arising from the Mordechai Vanunu affair in September 1986, the story of the discovery of abandoned British passports allegedly used by Israeli secret agents and now the Sawan affair.
The deportation also was seen as a demonstration of “balance” between Israel and its Arab adversaries. Syrian diplomats were ousted two years ago after the Syrian Embassy was implicated in a plot to blow up an Israeli airliner at Heath-row Airport.
When Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher approved Regev’s expulsion, she was giving into Foreign Office pressure to make a point of Britain’s evenhanded approach, it is understood here.
Ben-Yishai wrote that there is good reason to believe the Israeli agents did not possess information Sawan had about the cartoonist’s murder. If they had, they would have passed it on to British intelligence he said.
The PLO official was ousted because he was identified as a member of Force 17, the highly sophisticated terror team charged with safeguarding the security of PLO leader Yasir Arafat. But unlike the Israeli mission, the PLO office here has no diplomatic status and its members do not enjoy diplomatic immunity.
( London correspondent Maurice Samuelson contributed to this report.)