Israel has dismissed its deputy ambassador in Washington over an alleged 2009 media leak about secret discussions involving the United States, diplomatic sources said on Wednesday.
They said Dan Arbell, former deputy director for North American affairs at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, had been removed after security investigators cleared another senior diplomat who had been implicated in the case.
A report in the Israeli daily Jerusalem Post said the information, which allegedly concerned Iran, was leaked to an Israeli daily Haaretz correspondent in 2009. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ilana Stein said: “A senior official is being returned after his tenure was brought to an end.” She described the move as unusual, but declined to elaborate on the circumstances or the identity of the official.
News of Arbell’s dismissal was communicated to foreign ministry staff in a cable entitled “End of employment due to leak,” Haaretz newspaper reported. Speaking to the paper, senior ministry officials described the incident as the latest episode in “a witch hunt” against anyone suspected of unauthorized contact with journalists. The previous suspect in the case, Alon Bar, served at the time as the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director for strategic affairs, a role devoted largely to monitoring Iran. Following a suspension, he was appointed ambassador to Spain.
Israeli commentators voiced concern about press freedom under the conservative coalition government, whose foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, is an ultranationalist with a penchant for tough talk and policy spats with Netanyahu.
“Dan Arbell, one of the most seasoned and highly-esteemed figures in Israel’s foreign service (and there aren’t many in that category, believe me), is ousted in disgrace,” wrote Ben Caspit in the mass-circulation daily Maariv. “An attempt is under way here to instill fear, an attempt is under way here to deter people from talking to journalists.”
Under Israeli law, anyone convicted of leaking information which could harm state security can face up to 15 years prison, in a penalty which can also be applied to those who reveal information without intending to harm state security.
Compiled from Reuters and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.