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Israel's Assassination Policy

  • Washington. D.C.'s top cops are in tense talks after an Israeli military official concedes the country's assassination tactics.
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By Martin Mann

In a soundproof conference room adjoining the office of David Carpenter, head of the State Department's Diplomatic Security division, officials from the Secret Service, the FBI and Car penter's own staff discussed the latest headache handed them by a top Israeli official, who confirmed that "liquidating" anyone considered a "danger" to Israel was the "legitimate and appropriate" policy of its government.

That the ministate maintained dozens of hit squads made up of widely traveled military and civilian triggermen has long been a silently acknowledged fact of life to U.S. security officials. Every Israeli prime minister in the last quarter-century has committed political murder with his own hands as a sort of entrance test for national office.

But officially, Israel has never before acknowledged its determination to exterminate troublesome opponents abroad. That veil was lifted late last month at the retirement ceremonies of Gen. Shabtai Ziv, a former military judge who served as general counsel of the Shin Beth, Israel's internal security service for the past dozen years.

It was an ornate occasion, with Israeli Supreme Court President Aharon Barak and Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein in attendance as Ziv delivered his farewell address.

"As a jurist, I had to distinguish between hostile elements within the territory of the state of Israel and those who act outside the state and cannot be arrested or brought to trial," Ziv explained. "As for the latter [enemies abroad], it is perfectly legitimate to strike at anyone who is a danger to the state's security.... I will authorize a liquidation of someone like that anywhere, provided I get a clear and specific order from the political level."

What troubles American security officials is that the concept of just who is a "danger to the state" is subject to volatile and bellicose interpretation among Israeli leaders. The ministate's chief rabbi, Ovadia Yosef, is currently under criminal investigation for publicly urging the execution of a government minister participating in the current Mideast peace talks which involve returning some territory unlawfully occupied by Israel to its neighbors -- a concession considered treason by many Zionist militants and fundamentalist rabbis.

"Trouble is, the real promoters of these controversial Mideast settlement talks are Clinton and his top people," says Lt. Col. Tom Hoskins, a U.S. Marine counterterrorist expert. "If Zionist fanatics want to kill their own leaders for going along with Clinton, who can tell when they will turn their attention -- and their hit squads -- toward Washington?"


U.S. security and counterintelligence officials are also troubled by the inroads an alien lobby is making among this nation's law-enforcement and intelligence agencies. In New York City, Police Commissioner Howard Safir announced this month that the Simon Wiesenthal Foundation, based in California, was setting up a center in Manhattan where city and state police officers will be trained how to handle "interracial" relations.

Simultaneously, the Justice Depart ment announced that it was, after a long delay and an attempted cover-up, opening a criminal inquiry into the security violations reportedly committed by former CIA director John Deutch -- known for his deep ethnic, emotional and political ties to the state of Israel -- while serving as the nation's top ranking spymaster.

"There are ways for dealing with suspected terrorists, especially if they are of the Muslim kind," said a former FBI agent. "You harass them, bug them, defame them, infiltrate them and throw them in jail. But Israel is different. You make the wrong move, and you will find yourself out of a job and blacklisted -- federally unemployable, so to speak."

What also worries U.S. experts, who are responsible for the security of senior American officials as well as Washington's many-hued diplomatic corps, is that a number of top Israeli leaders, among them President Ezer Weizman, Prime Minister Ehud Barak and his predecessor, former Premier Benjamin Netanyahu, are under criminal investigation for offenses ranging from money-laundering to bribery and electoral fraud.

According to Hitler's Secret Conversation, a stenographic account of personal discussions with Adolf Hitler, even the head of Nazi Germany thoroughly rejected assassination as a tool in political struggles.