MI5 was feuding with Mossad while known terrorists struck in London
Saturday 19 June 1999
The poor relations resulted in a number of fiascoes:
The British knew of the plan in 1982 to assassinate Shlomo Argov, the Israeli ambassador to London, but the Israelis were not warned.
The Israelis knew the Palestinian satirical cartoonist Nagy el-Ali el-Adami was to be assassinated in London in 1987 by his countrymen. The British were not told because Israel did not want to expose its double agents in the PLO's London-based cells.
In 1986 suitcases of explosives were sent to Israel from locations in Europe. One came from Heathrow. It became clear, according to Mossad sources, that the British knew of the suitcase but did not see fit to pass the information to the Israelis.
The former MI5 officer David Shayler has also said it received warning from a reliable source of the planned 1994 bombing attack on the Israeli embassy but the information was not passed on.
These were just the worst cases to arise from long-standing distrust between the British and Israeli services.
An Israeli stationed in London said the relationship between the services has been difficult: "And on the British side there has never been much openness."
The source said the British relationship with Israeli intelligence was worse than any other European country's.
The evidence is in articles in the Ha'aretz Israeli paper, which did a two-year investigation into the feud.
It discloses that relations between MI6 and Mossad reached a new low in 1987 after the London-based Nagy el-Ali el-Adami was shot on the doorstep of the offices in Chelsea of the Middle Eastern newspaper El-Kabas, where he worked.
He was noted for his witty and satirical cartoons against the Israeli occupation but also against the Palestinian leadership and Yasser Arafat, whom he lampooned as being gay.
The Israelis had two double agents in PLO London hit- teams involved in the killing but had not warned the British. Both agents were arrested by Scotland Yard after the murder and disclosed that they were working for the Israelis.
One was a hit-team quartermaster and had 145kg of Semtex in his possession. Mossad had not told MI6 about their London agents or the planned killing.
The British were furious and threw out three Israeli diplomats, including an embassy attache identified as the handler for the two agents. Ha'aretz disclosed that MI6 froze all contacts with the Israeli secret services over an extended period.
Yoav Biran, who became the Israeli ambassador after the killing, said that the British remained angry.
"I know Israel promised the British several times there would be no repetition of this kind of behaviour."
Five years earlier the boot had been on the other foot. British security services are reported not to have passed on information warning of the impending attack on the Israeli ambassador to London.
New evidence has been provided by a British murderer, Ronald Waldron, who is in prison on the Isle of Wight. He said that he gave "hot" warning of the planned attack on Mr Argov to the British security services.
Mr Argov was shot in the head outside the Dorchester Hotel in 1982 but survived the attack by a hit-team that was run by the Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal. Three Palestinians, including the failed assassin Hussein Rassan Sa'id, were caught and jailed for life for the attack.
In the mid-1970s Waldron, a psychopath with an IQ of 130, became an informer for the Liverpool CID. In pubs in Liverpool, and sometimes London, he came into contact with activists in left-wing, pro-Arab or pro-Palestinian groups. He passed information to the Special Branch.
From prison Waldron told Ha'aretz reporters that he met Sa'id and other Palestinian terrorists as early as 1977. He described a complex web of organisations of which he had been a member, supplying addresses and names of activists and handlers of agents. The Israeli reporters said many of these details were confirmed by Israeli intelligence sources.
Waldron was arrested in 1983 for the murder of his five- year-old nephew and for attacking his sister-in-law. He was jailed for life. The Special Branch had paid his water, electricity and phone bills, in addition to pounds 100 for every item of information he provided.
He said he supplied his handlers with a detailed warning about the attempt on Mr Argov's life: "I gave them everything, the group's whole list of targets. I told them that they were planning to kill Argov. They knew that Argov was on the list, but they still left him with one bodyguard, completely exposed to the assassins' bullets. That was really a crime."
Waldron says Sa'id's girlfriend, a Briton who also worked for the security services, gave a similar warning. David Alton - now Lord Alton - then a Liberal MP, looked into the case at the request of Waldron's wife. Lord Alton says he believes that to this day "someone is trying to hide something. I don't known exactly what."
Sa'id also gave Ha'aretz the first interview since he was jailed. He too believes the British security services knew of the plan in advance. He said the two conspirators who fled the scene to their flat were arrested by police within 40 minutes. "We all thought they had some kind of advance information and that there was a traitor inside the (Abu Nidal) organisation."
Mr Argov, now 69, suffered brain damage in the shooting and is a permanent patient in the rehabilitation ward of Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital. Sa'id said: "I am very sorry about the wound that Mr Argov suffers from. I wish him, like all victims of the Israeli- Arab conflict, recovery and peace."
By all accounts, relations between the British and Israeli security services are still uneasy.
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