A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
February 14, 2013- The Ben Zygier Affair and Coalition Talks Stalled
For the past two days Israeli news has been dominated by, what will probably go down in the history books as, "The Ben Zygier affair". Now that the basic facts have been officially confirmed, and the lid is off any reporting based on foreign sources, a better picture has developed regarding what the is probably the true story.
The following is what we know.. Zygier was an Australian immigrant who served in the Israeli army. Zygier was then recruited to work for the Mossad. At some point in 2009, it seems the Australian security services became aware of Zygier's service with the Mossad and that he was using Austrailian issued passports. He was approached by an Australian journalist who seems to have been directed to him by the Australian security services. Zygier vigorously denied he was connected with the Mossad.
Now for the speculation..At some point Zygier either admitted to working for Mossad and using his Austrailian passport to some journalist, or he was about to and tell them additional information on Mossad. At that juncture he was arrested and placed in solitary confinement by the Mossad. He was likely given a choice of admitting his crimes and getting a plea agreement, allowing him to go to trial for an unknown crime.
It is also known that Zygier's family was aware of his situation. Just the day before his apparent suicide he was visited by a lawyer who advised him on whether or not to take the plea agreement. It is speculated Zygier decided to do neither and committed suicide.
It should be noted that Israel has the dubious acclaim of holding the record for relatively prominent people committing suicide when held in confinement (including a former cabinet minister and the former head of Bank Hapoalim). However, that is a whole other story- dealing with the lack of almost automatic bail as part of the Israeli system– but that is a story for another column. There is a lot of speculation as to what Zygier did for the Mossad. Though the answer to that question is somewhat irrelevant, other than to know that his public outing will cause damage. Knowing someone was really a spy gives our enemies a chance to evaluate any connections he may have had. That, no doubt. partially explains the hysterical and stupid reaction of the government here. I say "stupid", because by trying to keep a secret secret-after it's already been published abroad- only shines a stronger spotlight on the story and effectively confirms that it is true- and not just another one of a thousand stories that come out on the Mossad, some true and some not. The second question that is starting to be asked is: If the narrative speculated above is right, and Zygier was a Mossad Agent (or "Lochem" as they are called here,) and something happened that caused him to break down and open his mouth when he should not have- Did that justify the treatment he received? Zygier does not seem to have been a traitor. Though that remains another unknown. There are still many other questions.
On the political front, there has been no progress whatsoever. Netanyahu has been trying desperately to break the bond between Lapid and Bennet. At last reports, it seems his actions have only served to strengthen those bonds. He is trying hard to convince Yachimovich to join the coalition by offering her the Treasury. However, after the Bank of Israel announced yesterday that the budget deficit was even higher than reported before the election, the job of Finance Minister looks like the least coveted job in Israel at the moment. One final word. A reader wrote to me asking about the Israeli film "Gatekeepers" that is up for an Academy Award. "Gatekeepers" is an incredibly powerful and disturbing film. It is a strong testimony that all those who were interviewed in the film (the six living former heads of the Shin Bet) have neither attacked the film, nor repudiated their own words. From this we can are led to believe the facts in the story the film portrays are largely true. I will try to do a full review of this gripping film in the future.