Saturday, April 14, 2007

Ex-Mossad Head Blames Bibi For Bungled Attempt On Mashaal

Danny Yatom says he did not recommend Mashaal as a target to then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1997

Taken from YNet News, 11.04.07
By Tzvika Brott

One of the most damaging blunders in the history of the Mossad intelligence agency was the botched attempt to assassinate Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Jordan in 1997.

In his first public comments about the operation, Labor MK Danny Yatom, the man who stood at the helm of the Mossad at the time, denied that he had recommended Mashaal as a target to then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speaking to Yedioth Ahronot, Yatom said the idea to target Hamas officials was raised following two deadly suicide bombing attacks in Jerusalem.

"After two attacks in Jerusalem, Bibi Netanyahu convened the cabinet and asked the heads of the security agencies to present possible Hamas targets," Yatom said.

"Ami Ayalon, the then Shin Bet head, said he had no targets. Amnon Shahak, the then chief of staff, said something similar. I came with a list of defined targets for which I got approval but none of them was in Jordan or related to Khaled Mashaal," said Yatom.

A ten-man Mossad squad carrying Canadian passports injected Mashaal with a lethal poison and two of its members were arrested. Yatom took responsibility for the operation's failure and resigned.

Bibi changed his mind
Under pressure from the US, Netanyahu agreed to send an antidote to save Mashaal's life in return for the release of the two agents.

Yatom said that although Netanyahu originally accepted his targets, the prime minister changed his mind and decided to go for Mashaal in Jordan.

"When we started to work on the targets, I received a call from Netanyahu's military secretary who told me that he had changed the target and that we were going for Jordan. I asked him how a decision like this could be taken without me," Yatom said.

Yatom added that he later realized that the then Defense Minister Itzik Mordechai and Shin Bet chief Ayalon had convinced Netanyahu that Mashaal should be targeted.

"I immediately decided to fly to King Hussein despite the risk of him putting me in jail. We had a very difficult meeting. But we managed to restore relations with Jordan," said Yatom.

He added that part of his mission to Jordan was to ensure that the remaining eight Mossad agents returned to Israel safely.

Ophir Akonis, Netanyahu's media advisor, said in response: "The operation's failure was not the selection of Mashaal as a target … but in the execution that was overseen by Danny Yatom. We regret the fact the Yatom is harming national security ethics for the sake of internal politics."

Yatom is running for the May 28 Labor leadership race.

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