by Jonathan Spyer
British and Israeli intelligence services are thought to cooperate closely in a variety of areas of common interest – including on
The evidence suggesting that British passports were used by members of the team responsible for killing Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh is causing concern at the possibility of a new diplomatic row between
Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged to carry out a full investigation into the affair.
A British Foreign Office Spokesman quoted earlier in the London Daily Telegraph earlier this week said that the authorities "believe the passports used were fraudulent and have begun our own investigation." If the killers of Mabhouh were indeed Israelis, the unauthorized use of foreign passports will come as no surprise. It has been a much noted aspect in the known operations of
The two men apprehended following the failed attempt to assassinate Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in
A diplomatic row also erupted between
Some reports in the British media have raised additional questions over the future of British-Israeli intelligence sharing in light of the latest incident.
The British and Israeli intelligence services are thought to cooperate closely in a variety of areas of common interest – including on the Iranian nuclear program, and in the fight against Sunni 'Global Jihad' organizations.
The warnings of major diplomatic fallout are probably overblown.
While the British government (and the governments of
Normal relations between
But while Thatcher's anger over this case was known to be deep, she limited her retribution, not allowing a major rift with
Co-operation between the British and Israeli intelligence services at the present time is of mutual benefit.
Bilateral cooperation in relevant areas is not a matter of altruism, passing mood or sentiment. It makes sense because no single state has a monopoly on intelligence. Close liaison with allies can make up for shortfalls in knowledge. One intelligence expert described such relationships between services as "pay as you go propositions"- that is, mutual suspicion exists, the basis of the relationship is one of interests, but as long as there is a prospect of mutual gain, the communications continue. The transnational nature of the current terrorist threat, meanwhile, makes the need for cooperation between targeted countries yet more relevant. None of this is changed because of the sudden spotlight cast by the events in
Such cooperation, by the way, is not limited to democracies. The Israeli security services also communicate on relevant subjects with a variety of states across the Middle East, including some with whom
In short, despite the headlines, lasting fallout from the allegations of use by the Israeli intelligence services of forged foreign passports will probably be minimal. The major direction of relations between countries is forged on shared interests and affinities, and is unlikely to be swayed by such events. In the more specific world of intelligence-sharing and liaison, meanwhile, there are ample, urgent reasons for cooperation between relevant bodies to continue – so it is likely to do so.
Jonathan Spyeris a senior researcher at the Global Research in
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