It’s no secret that Israel has intervened regularly and violently in the affairs of foreign nations including attempts to murder and/or overthrow their political leaders. Of course, it has done this multiple times in the Middle East, most notably by assassinating figures like Abbas Mussawi, Sheikh Ahmed Yassine, and almost assassinating Khaled Meshal. Israel has pursued a policy of regime change in Iran by assassinating scores of military and scientific leaders and fomenting armed subversion by the country’s Sunni minority.
In my two recent Middle East Eye pieces I examined the Israeli role in the smear campaign against UK Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Until a few days ago, it would be difficult to ascertain direct Israeli involvement, though its fingerprints appeared to be all over various anti-Corbyn reports. That all changed when Bibi Netanyahu himself weighed in, falsely accusing the British leader of honoring the memories of the Palestinian terrorists who perpetrated the Munich massacre. As I wrote, almost all of what Netanyahu tweeted was a lie. That was to be expected.
The laying of a wreath by Jeremy Corbyn on the graves of the terrorist who perpetrated the Munich massacre and his comparison of Israel to the Nazis deserves unequivocal condemnation from everyone – left, right and everything in between
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) August 13, 2018
What I did note was the curious timing of Bibi’s intervention. Only a day or two after UK media reported the accusations against Corbyn concerning the Tunisian cemetery ceremony, the Israeli prime minister made his own move. This was no accident. Don’t forget that Netanyahu unveiled his cache of purported Iranian nuclear weapons documents only a week or so before Pres. Trump formally renounced the Iran nuclear deal. Again, the timing was no accident.
Though no one has found a smoking gun tying the two events together, had Omarosa Manigault Newman still worked at the White House there would undoubtedly be a tape of a conversation between the two in which they coördinated this dog-and-pony show exercise.
Returning to Tunisia, digging up the kinds of pictures used to smear Corbyn and performing the research to determine who is buried in the cemetery is no job for amateurs. No matter how much animus has arisen against Corbyn, no one in Britain has both the means, methods and expertise to do this sort of thing. My strong suspicion is that it was the work of Israeli intelligence operatives. Not necessarily the Mossad itself, though that’s a possibility. But certainly current or former intelligence operatives working on behalf of official Israeli agencies. The Strategic Affairs ministry immediately comes to mind. It is headed by Gil Erdan and his deputy, former military censor Sima Vaknin-Gil. They have publicly boasted that they are hiring such agents to mount sabotage campaigns against international targets supporting BDS and other forms of anti-Israel “delegitimization.”
It’s important to remember that Al Jazeera’s documentary, The Lobby, showed that such an Erdan agent was embedded in the London Israeli embassy and tasked with toppling figures in both the Conservative and Labour Parties who were deemed too independent for their own good. Among them was Alan Duncan from the Tories and Corbyn from Labour.
It’s also possible that Israel has used a cut-out third-party entity to manage this operation. This is precisely the sort of thing that the Israeli dirty ops company, Black Cube, did on behalf of Viktor Orban just before his last election victory. THe same company attempted vainly to dig up dirt on the Obama administration officials who negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran. Reports have claimed that Trump administration officials organized this effort. But they certainly could not have done so without the tacit approval of Netanyahu himself and his government.
It is quite a jump from ginning up a fake charge of tax fraud against Omar Barghouti, as Israeli authorities have done, as part of such a campaign; and quite another to attempt to destroy the career of Britain’s Opposition leader. That takes Israel into far more dangerous territory, the sort of operations that most democratic nations hesitate to entertain, as they cross over from intelligence work into outright violations of sovereignty.
Historically, some world superpowers have engaged in such manipulation and orchestrated the violent overthrow of sovereign states: Stalin did this in eastern Europe and the U.S. has routinely and serially overthrown governments which refused to do our bidding. But Israel is no world superpower and for it to engage in similar behavior takes Israeli chutzpah to a whole new level.
It’s the utmost irony that Netanyahu himself accused the Obama administration of intervening in the last Israeli election to defeat him. He ranted in a video (the Israeli broadcast media refused to air his speech on the day of the election) that Obama had created anti-Likud groups which had paid for buses to move Arab voters to the polls. The notion that Arabs were flooding the voting booths saved Bibi’s political ass. Instead of voting for his right-wing rivals, these voters ‘returned home’ to Likud and assured him of another term as prime minister.
One shouldn’t be surprised if Israel is found to have directly intervened against Corbyn. After all, that’s quite similar to what Netanyahu did against Barack Obama: he recorded a political ad on behalf of Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign in an act that contravened all previous norms in U.S.-Israel relations. When Netanyahu spoke to Congress in attacking the Iran nuclear deal, it was also an act of not just disrespect, but outright defiance against the nation’s commander-in-chief.
Netanyahu, more than any previous Israeli leader, has aligned himself with the Republicans. His alliance with them isn’t tacit. He sees his role as actively destroying any Democratic presidential candidate who threatens to win office. His problem with Obama was that he was a popular president. Nothing Bibi could do would shake the president’s political hold. Though he did try.
Corbyn is in a somewhat more precarious position: he’s an insurgent, running a campaign to become the nation’s leader. He also has perceived weaknesses that the Tories and their allies have worked their best at exploiting. However, like Obama, Corbyn has withstood many tests. He fought back against a Party leadership challenge. He led a successful national election campaign which won major gains for his Party in parliament. But unlike Obama, the Labour leader is a genuine progressive who doesn’t soften his views in an attempt to mollify his critics on the right. That has made the attacks even more visceral and shrill.
My concern is that if left unchecked Israeli interventions will become even more overt and damaging to the sovereign political processes of countries whose leaders Israel deems its enemies.