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Two panels, two opinions: Reports on Mossad come due

JERUSALEM, Dec. 2 (JTA) — Two panels examining Israel’s recent bungled assassination attempt on a Hamas leader in Jordan in September are emerging with two different opinions. A Knesset panel probing the failed September Mossad operation found serious flaws in the way the mission was handled, but held no individuals personally responsible. Its conclusion sharply contrasts with a separate commission of inquiry appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which is expected to issue its preliminary findings soon. The government commission, which is headed by Yosef Chekhanover, was reportedly planning to send letters of warning to members of Mossad whom the commission members believe may have been negligent in performing their duties. Mossad chief Danny Yatom was scheduled to appear before the committee Tuesday in a reported last-ditch effort to convince the committee not to censure him in its final report. In Israel, such letters suggest that individuals targeted by a probe retain legal counsel, since they may soon have charges brought against them. The Mossad operation, in which two Israeli agents were detained by Jordanian authorities after trying to assassinate Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal sharply strained Israeli-Jordanian relations, bringing them to a near crisis point. The agents were freed after Israel agreed to release dozens of Palestinian prisoners, including Hamas co-founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Netanyahu drew strong criticism for the bungled affair, including from within his own government. Foreign Minister David Levy, who appeared before the Chekhanover commission this week, said that he was not briefed on the operation before it took place, and would have opposed it had he known. Opposition members lashed out at Netanyahu for jeopardizing relations with Jordan, Israel’s most amicable peace partner. But only one opposition legislator on the six-member Knesset panel probing the Mossad operation, Meretz Party leader Yossi Sarid, called for individual Mossad officials to be held personally responsible for the affair. Labor leader Ehud Barak explained Tuesday why he voted along with the other members of the Knesset subcommittee not to single out individuals. “We found a lot of things that should be corrected,” Barak told Israel Radio. “But for reasons we cannot explain now, we found it might not be appropriate to take personal steps against individuals.” Likud Knesset member Uzi Landau also defended the subcommittee’s decision. “Even the best people can sometimes make mistakes, and there is no reason to hold this against them,” he said.

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