Historical Dictionary of Israeli Intelligence

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of the Jewish espionage ring in 1954. When he fell into Israeli cap-
tivity he was the military governor of the Gaza Strip. As it turned out,
all of them were traded for 10 Israeli POWs, including one pilot. The
Israeli government did not even ask for the release of the members of
the Jewish network from prison; its policy was still to deny any Is-
raeli connection to the sabotage in Egypt in 1954. The top Israeli cir-
cles believed that asking for the release of the prisoners might en-
danger Israel’s relations with the United States.
After 14 years in Egyptian jails, Robert Dassa, Victor Levy, Philip
Nathanson, and Marcelle Ninio were released from prison, as part of
the agreement on the return of 5,237 Egyptians POWs captured in the
1967 Six-Day War. The four members of the espionage network
were released separately from the Israeli POWs and reached Israel
via Europe on a commercial flight. This time, the inclusion of the
Jewish spy network prisoners in the POW exchange was settled only
at the insistence of the director of the Mossad, Meir Amit, who
threatened to resign if he was not allowed to try to negotiate such a
deal with Egypt. Eventually Minister of Defense Dayan granted him
a 30-day time limit to conclude the deal; Amit succeeded. For all that,
the presence in Israel of the released network members remained an
official secret until Prime Minister Golda Meir announced her inten-
tion to attend Ninio’s wedding in 1971 and to inform the Israeli press.
The most important result of the “Bad Business” was that the Israeli
government adopted a rule of never activating Jews in the Diaspora
for espionage or any other covert action against their own country’s
government lest this wreck relations between the Jewish citizens of
such countries and their government. In nondemocracies such as the
Arab states, activating Jewish spies would in any case have a very lim-
ited effect since their access to important governmental secrets, if any,
is negligible. The Pollard affair is a different story. Jonathan Jay Pol-
lardwas not operated by an official intelligence organization in Israel
but by an amateur outfit known as the Bureau of Scientific Liaison.
On 30 March 2005 Marcelle Ninio, Robert Dassa, and Meir Za-
’afran were accorded recognition by Israeli president Moshe Katsav
and the chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Moshe Ya’alon,
for their services to the state and for their years of suffering. The three
are the last surviving members of the Jewish espionage network in


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