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“Israel is a unique country. They live in a bad neighbourhood and they will do anything they can to preserve and protect that country, and quite frankly I have absolutely no problem with that,” he said.
Citing his own experience of foreign nationals being brought in as CIA officers and then deployed to their areas of origin, Pratt said the priority was to ensure that their loyalty was exclusively to the recruiting country.
“Intelligence agencies break the law - but other people’s laws,” he said.
Both Reed and Pratt said disclosures of Jewish diaspora involvement in Israeli espionage could stoke anti-Semitism and allegations of dual loyalty - an opinion shared by Gad Shimron, a former Mossad officer who writes on intelligence issues.
“This is a problem that has always been there, and will remain,” Shimron said. “I don’t know what to say, other than that the rule is: Never turn a Jew against his host country.”
While Zygier’s family declined all public comment on his case, friends of the dead man recalled his Zionist upbringing and pride in Israel, where he was married and had children.
The idea that someone like Zygier had violated Mossad’s code of silence, perhaps even imperilling lives, provoked soul-searching in Israel. “Did the Mossad operative commit treason?” asked the biggest-selling daily Yedioth Ahronoth on its front page.
Shimron said this was a possibility, given Israel’s past cases of double-agents and moles, among them Jewish immigrants.
“There’s always the chance of bad apples in a batch of recruits. The trick is to weed them out in good time,” he said.
Reed suggested Mossad was likelier to miss warning signs in candidates from abroad, where Israel would find it harder to carry out comprehensive background checks and psychological screening, especially if there were a rush to find recruits to fend off proliferating Middle East menaces.
“If they don’t have the time and inclination to carefully build up a picture of the person, including the first 20 years of his or her life, they never really find out what’s in their heart,” Reed said.
“I would imagine that this paradox is a real problem for Israeli intelligence, and possibly people there are saying now, ‘I warned you!’”