Still reeling from last week’s deadly bus bombing in Bulgaria, and with the specter of the 1972 “Munich massacre” omnipresent, Israel officials continued to work closely with British and other intelligence services Tuesday, poised to thwart any planned acts of terrorism targeting its athletes at the upcoming London Olympics.
“The attack in Bulgaria was another link in the long chain of the Hezbollah-Iranian global terror campaign against Israelis and other Western countries,” Israeli Embassy spokesman Lior Weintraub said in a statement e-mailed to The Washington Post. “Israel is taking all necessary measures in close coordination with other friendly countries to safeguard the security of its citizens.”
With 37 Olympic athletes slated to compete in the London Games starting Friday, Israel is poised to prevent a second terrorist attack on its citizens in as many weeks. The Burgas Airport bus bombing – which killed six tourists July 18, including five Israelis – has heightened habitually elevated safety concerns for Israeli athletes during the Olympics.
Steven Weber, a national security expert and UC Berkeley professor, said he suspected that Israel has sent undercover security to protect its Olympic athletes in the past, with or without seeking permission from host nations.
“I would be willing to place a bet that the Israelis are not entirely confident relying entirely on whoever is hoisting the Olympics to keep their athletes safe,” Weber said.
Weber, a political science professor at Cal, noted that the fragility of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government, weakened by the recent departure of the Kadima Party from the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, has transformed Olympic security into a political issue. Without Kadima in the coalition, Netanyahu’s government is “hanging on by a thread,” Weber said.
Fortunately for Netanyahu, collaboration with London is routine. The Mossad, Israel’s storied intelligence agency, maintains sound relations with MI5, the United Kingdom’s internal counter-intelligence and security agency.
The Mossad achieved international recognition following the 1972 Munich Games, when 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were taken hostage by a Palestinian group, Black September, and eventually executed. In response to the terrorist attack, the Mossad carried out a string of covert operations to assassinate individuals involved in the death of the Israeli athletes.
Despite confirmation from top Israeli officials of their coordination with various intelligence agencies, the government remains mute on specific concerns and security preparations.
“We are not commenting on any specific measure or confirming any specific threat,” Weintraub said.
See photos from the Bulgaria bus bombing, below:
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