By Ze'ev Schiff
Identifying intelligence agents has reached a peak and there are signs that responsibility in security matters is deteriorating at the highest levels.
If I were an Arab, or one of any other people willing in principle to help Israel in security matters, I would not do it, no matter what the reward. This is because of the revelations from an argument between the former commanders of Israel's two intelligences services.
Retired Major General Tzvi Zamir, the head of the Mossad during the period of the Yom Kippur War before it, accuses the head of the IDF intelligence branch at the time, Eli Zeira, of causing serious damage to Israel's security.
The argument is not about the question, never completely answered, of why and how Israel was so surprised by the war. It is about the extraordinary accusation Zamir hurled at Zeira that in recent years he purposely exposed the identity of a top Mossad agent who supplied Israel with information before the war.
Zeira was fired from his position as head of IDF intelligence by the Agranat Commission. not because of that accusation, but because of failure in pre-war evaluations. Zamir is not known to be a big talker. It is not clear why he was silent for so long while holding back such a serious claim, and what compelled him to reveal it now.
He did not make do with the statements he made a month ago on television, but he also submitted a serious letter of complaint to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. The letter was co-signed by two former senior intelligence officials, who were not under Zamir's command but under Zeira's - chief of research in the IDF intelligence branch, retired Brigadier General Amos Gilboa, and head of IDF intelligence data-gathering, retired Colonel Yosef Langotzky.
The lengthy missive stated that its writers had approached the attorney general on the advice of Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and former president of the Supreme Court, Justice Meir Shamgar. It detailed how and to whom, Zeira allegedly leaked the identity of the senior Mossad agent.
The letter detailed conversations Zeira was said to have had with journalist Howard Blum, who wrote a book about the war. It described how Zeira directed Blum to sources in which the agent's name was mentioned, and that Zeira told Blum "the agent accompanied the Egyptian president to a meeting with the Saudi king, when Sadat came to inform the king of his intention to attack Israel."
According to the letter, Zeira had referred Blum to Dr. Aharon Bergman, a researcher from London, who had published the name of the agent - Ashraf Marwan, Gamal Abdel Nasser's son-in-law.
The question of whether Marwan was a double agent, as Zeira claims, has occupied Israeli intelligence in the past. A committee appointed to examine the issue concluded at the time that there was no proof he was. It is interesting to note that in spite of the leaks regarding him, Marwan was not arrested in Egypt and it is not known that he was interrogated as a suspect.
"Having dealt for many years with intelligence sources on a strategic level," wrote Zamir, Gilboa, and Langotsky to the attorney general, "we feel it is our supreme moral duty to disclose this serious and severe damage to state security."
Despite their claims, they are not demanding that Zeira be investigated before standing trial. They want an investigation "to learn lessons and come to conclusions to prevent such revelations in the future."
The attorney general, no matter who holds that office, will have to deal with the lessons to be learned in this matter. The primary lesson is clear - indecent exposure of agents has reached its peak and there are signs that responsibility in security matters is deteriorating at the highest levels. The military censor cannot stop the erosion.