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Thursday, February 26, 1998 Published at 10:24 GMT


Crisis of confidence for Mossad
image: [ A three-man panel was appointed to investigate a botched assassination attempt in Jordan last year ]
A three-man panel was appointed to investigate a botched assassination attempt in Jordan last year

By defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus

This latest setback for Israel's foreign-intelligence service - Mossad - comes after a spate of operational failures that have damaged relations with other countries and even misled Israel's own political leaders on the dangers of war.

Yossi Melman of Ha'aretz newspaper: "Botched operations a blow to morale" (2'27")
Morale amongst the once legendary intelligence service is now at rock-bottom.

But Mossad's problems cannot be dealt with in isolation. Insiders believe that only a far-reaching reform of all of Israel's intelligence gathering apparatus - Mossad, its internal counterpart Shin Bet, and the army's own military intelligence branch - will restore the Israeli security services' credibility.

Recent failures - not least the botched attempt to assassinate a Hamas leader in Jordan - have highlighted the lack of sufficient political control over Mossad's activities. A commission of inquiry established to look into the fiasco in Jordan pulled many of its punches, but it did highlight the need for greater advice on intelligence matters at the political level - suggesting that the Israeli Prime Minister should have his own intelligence adviser.

[ image: Yatom: shouldering the blame]
Yatom: shouldering the blame
The Mossad chief - Danny Yatom - resigned ahead of the revelations of the failed Swiss operation. The fact that he didn't go after the misjudged assassination attempt in Jordan is indicative of the serious problems of accountability that Mossad faces.

But even Mr Yatom couldn't survive a second crisis that soured relations with another friendly country - Switzerland. But Mossad's problems are as much practical as political.

The recent failures have highlighted lax procedures and frankly amateurish standards. The fact that one agent was recently revealed to have been providing the agency with faked intelligence reports playing up the danger of war with Syria, highlight's the scale of the problems that Mr Yatom's successor will have to grapple with.

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