We now know that one of those Australians being investigated was Prisoner X, Ben Zygier, who changed the name on his passport at least three times. However, it seems that these were not the Australian passports used in Dubai at the time of the Mabhouh assassination. In June 2010, the Polish police arrested in Warsaw a man travelling with a German passport under the name of Uri Brodsky, who was identified by German media as a Mossad agent. A year earlier, the same man, identifying himself as Alexander Verin, had allegedly obtained a German passport along with an associate named Michael Bodenheimer; both claimed their parents were Holocaust refugees born in Germany.
The Bodenheimer passport was one of those used by the alleged Mossad agents during the Mabhouh assassination in Dubai. Brodsky-Verin was deported from Poland to Germany and from there transferred to Israel. He was tried in Germany in absentia and fined 60,000 euros. In January 2011, the German police issued an international arrest warrant for Brodsky. The fact that an alleged Mossad agent was traveling with a passport that was apparently part of the same batch of German passports used in Dubai points to a major security failing on the part of those preparing identities and passports for agents
Exactly a year ago, the Times of London published accounts of two anonymous young men, one of whom had emigrated to Israel from Britain and the other from France. Both young men, during their service in the Israel Defense Forces, were approached by a woman who identified herself as a Mossad official, who asked them to “lend” their passports to her for about 18 months while they were still in the army. When the passports were returned, they contained stamps from a variety of countries, including Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. The two men were advised not to visit those countries over the next few years.
There is a long and glorious tradition of Diaspora Jews aiding Israeli intelligence, albeit occasionally without being aware they were doing so. In the 1970s and 1980s, the semi-secret Lishkat Hakesher (Liaison Unit, also called Nativ), which was under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office and promoted ties between Israel and the Jews of the Soviet Union, sent Jewish citizens from Western countries to meet Soviet Jews, and among other things to bring them Hebrew textbooks. Many new immigrants to Israel have said they were apparently approached by the Mossad to “lend” it their passports for a while; in some cases their identities were used without their knowledge.
The illegal use of the passports of citizens from friendly nations stands in clear contradiction to assurances Israel has repeatedly given these countries. For agents operating in enemy territory, passports of real live citizens have a major advantage over fake travel documents. Many countries have the capability of easily detecting the latter; most large airports are equipped with computer systems connected to databases that can ascertain within seconds whether a passport has indeed been legally issued. For a serious intelligence organization committed to the safety of its operatives, even the best forged documents are no longer an option.
When Meir Dagan became Mossad chief, in September 2002, he was charged by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with expanding the agency operational portfolio substantially, and targeting mainly Iran’s nuclear program and its arms-smuggling networks to Hamas and Hezbollah. This necessitated a rapid influx of agents into the field, with each operation necessitating creation of new identities. It would seem that in the rush to acquire new documents too many corners were cut in security procedures. Now someone at the highest levels of Israel’s political and security establishment will need to ask the question whether the damage caused to Jewish citizens in friendly countries and to Israel’s diplomatic relations was worth the trouble.