What's Wrong With This Picture?
Recently, it took Israel
Yet, after nearly 15 years of Israeli "efforts" in the U.S. - her
closest friend and strongest ally - Israel fails to secure the release
of her agent, Jonathan Pollard.
What's wrong with this picture?
several days to secure the release of her agents in Jordan
a few weeks to secure the release of her agents in Switzerland and
a few months to secure the release of her agents in Cyprus.
THE JERUSALEM POST
August 13, 1999
Cyprus frees two Mossad agents
By ARIEH O'SULLIVAN
TEL AVIV (August 13) - The two Mossad agents captured and jailed last
year in Cyprus for spying arrived back in Israel on a private plane
after Nicosia released them unexpectedly yesterday.
The two men, Udi Hargov, 37, and Igal Damary, 49, had been sentenced
five months ago to a three-year jail term. They were released on
condition they be barred from Cyprus for life. The two reportedly
underwent a debriefing before being reunited with their families.
Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides said he suspended the jail terms
following a recommendation of clemency by his attorney-general and as a
goodwill gesture to the new Israeli government.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak expressed his gratitude to Clerides last night
in a speech in Herzliya.
"The act of the president...was greatly appreciated by the people of
Israel and will serve the advancement of good neighborly relations that
prevail between Israel and Cyprus," Barak said.
President Ezer Weizman Weizman phoned Clerides to thank him for the
release of the two agents. Clerides told him that a new spirit is
blowing in the new government and it is time to improve the relations
between the two countries.
Weizman reminded Clerides of his long-standing invitation to visit
Israel. Weizman extended the original invitation when he was in Cyprus
last November - a mere two days before the two men were caught and
charged with spying for the Mossad. Since then, sources say, Israel put
off inquiries about the visit, subtly linking it to a release of the
men. A Cypriot official admitted that a number of inquiries in the past
month regarding setting up a meeting with Barak had been gently
The agents were arrested immediately after Weizman's state visit to
Cyprus last November and he subsequently used his good offices in an
attempt to attain their release, sending a personal message to Clerides
with his director-general.
Earlier, a government statement issued in Nicosia said the men were
released because "their continued detention no longer served national
interests." Israel has quietly been working for their release ever
since they were arrested with sophisticated listening equipment close
to a military base.
Neither the Foreign Ministry nor the Cypriot Embassy in Israel would
confirm that a Clerides visit is a certainty, but both indicated that a
trip to Israel in the near future would be welcomed.
"Any official of Cyprus who wants to visit will be welcomed," said Aviv
Shir-On, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry.
The statement made by the Cypriot government on the occasion of the
release stated that the "the continuing
imprisonment [of Argov and Damari] no longer served the national
interest. On the contrary, this gesture towards the friendly
neighboring state of Israel is made on the occasion of the assumption of
power by the Barak government, which inaugurates a new period of
friendly bilateral relations."
The Cypriot national interest is indeed served, said one Israeli
diplomat, "by putting this whole saga behind us."
On top of welcoming a visit by Cypriot officials, there is speculation
that Israel also reportedly promised to help
Cyprus in its efforts to join the European Union.
At first, senior Mossad officials and other officials rushed to Cyprus
to try to keep the affair quiet and assure Cyprus the men were not
spying against them but against "terrorists." But the incident touched a
raw nerve among Cypriots, who saw it as a manifestation of their worst
nightmare. Despite the denials, they believed Israel was in cahoots with
Turkey and was helping it in its rivalry with the divided Mediterranean
The Mossad men were captured at a sensitive time when Cyprus was
threatening to place Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles as
protection against Turkish jets at a base the Mossad agents were
believed to be monitoring. It was coupled with reports that Israel had
been training Turkish pilots on how to avoid the SAM missiles.
At a much reported trial, Damary and Hargov were convicted on February 1
of approaching a prohibited military area near Ziyi in southern Cyprus
and sentenced to three years.
They were also sentenced to a concurrent jail term of six months for
possessing wireless scanning equipment without a license.
The two pleaded guilty to the lesser charges after the prosecution
dropped charges of conspiracy and espionage in an apparent plea bargain
deal. The more serious charges carry a sentence of up to 10 years.
Damary and Hargov had spent the past few months at Nicosia's central
prison. Last week a number of convicts were given early release because
it is overcrowded.
Mossad head Efraim Halevy telephoned Regional Cooperation Minister
Shimon Peres to thank him for his help in the release of the two agents,
Channel 1 reported that the two are not expected to face any
disciplinary action by the Mossad, despite the amateurish way they
operated which led to their capture.