Israel must not show bravado or arrogance

By Uri Dromi, March 25, 2010

What did Jews used to do whenever big tsures (troubles) came their way? They told jokes.

So today I am reminded of the Mossad agent who was sent on a mission to London, where he was supposed to meet his local contact, a certain Cohen.

The codeword for identifying each other was "White Rose". However, upon reaching the address, the Mossadnik realized that there were six Cohens living in the building. He punched the intercom of the first one and said "White Rose".

"Oh, you're looking for Cohen the spy," came the reply. "He lives on the fourth floor."

In other words, everybody knows that all over the world, people are being sent to get important information for their countries, or to act in ways that serve their vital interests.

These people, if they are going to succeed in their missions, have to use techniques which are not entirely kosher. Mr Miliband said that Israel had in the Dubai case violated the principle of transparency. But how can you run an intelligence operation and be transparent?

This oxymoron reminds me of something the late General Aharon Remez, Israeli ambassador to the UK (1965-70), once told me. As one of the founders of the Israeli Air Force, he was asked by David Ben Gurion, towards the end of the British mandate, if he was able to build "an underground air force".

Why am I telling you all these Boobeh mayses (grandmother's tales)? Because in such cases, there is nothing better to do than to lie low and pray that the storm should pass. The name of the game in this business is not to be caught. If you are, expect that some solid words will be said publicly and that a poor guy in the Israeli Embassy will be sent home. These are the professional risks.

What definitely should not be done, however, is what MK Arie Eldad did, when he suggested that Israel should expel a British diplomat in retaliation. This is not the time, the place or the way to show Israeli bravado.

My heart goes out now to my good friend Ron Prosor, the Israeli ambassador. He has to pull his weight (and he seems to have gained a lot recently, judging from the TV screen) to overcome this incident. Indeed, he responded wisely: "It is our clear intention to strengthen the firm foundation of our relationship, which is both vital and beneficiary to both our countries."

Exactly. Sometimes you need a shake-up to be reminded who your friends are. If excessive Israeli energy was recently exposed elsewhere, it should be now funnelled into improving relations with the UK.

Finally, let us not forget that whoever did it in Dubai, the world is a safer place now without Mr Mahmoud al-Mabhouh around.

Uri Dromi is a Jerusalem-based columnist

Last updated: 2:26pm, November 8 2010