Mossad ex-deputy director denies Turkey busted a Mossad spy ring
A former Mossad deputy director threw cold water on Turkey’s claim it broke up an Israeli spy ring targeting Palestinians in the country, the Times of Israel reported on Sunday.
Ram Ben-Barak, now a member of the Israeli Knesset after serving as Mossad’s number two from 2009 to 2011, said that the agents arrested by Turkish intelligence were not working for Israel. Instead, he suggested that Turkey was looking blowing the purported spy bust out of proportion.
“None of the published names were [of] Israeli spies and therefore, it should be put in proportion,” Ben-Barak told Channel 12.
Ben-Barak’s comments echo those made by several current and former Mossad officials in the aftermath of Turkey’s announcement on Thursday that it arrested a 15-member spy ring. The intelligence officials insisted that Turkey was not even an intelligence collection priority for Israel to justify forming such a network, but they say it is possible one could have been operated by intelligence officers from the Palestinian Authority (PA).
If these statements reflect official policy in Israel, it would mark a change in views about any threat from their former ally, Turkey. Last year, the former Mossad director Yossi Cohen had described Turkey as a greater potential threat than Iran when addressing his Arab counterparts.
Turkey has long played the role of safe haven for Hamas because of the vocal support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Israel persistently complained to Turkey to end the presence of Hamas officials within their borders, but they have refused.
This would not be the first occasion where Turkey created problems for Mossad. In 2013, Turkey reportedly shared intelligence about Mossad operations with their primary target, Iran.
Turkey and Israel were once strong allies, but relations deteriorated after the 2010 Mavi Mamara incident when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish citizens trying to enter Gaza by sea. The two were initially thought to be considering how they could reconcile ties, but this was disrupted by Erdoğan’s criticisms of Israel for its May military campaign in Gaza.
However in early July, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog received a phone call from Erdoğan, congratulating him on his election victory. The two reportedly discussed the “high potential for cooperation in the field of energy, tourism and technology” between the two countries.