The Israeli citizen, Hanan Tannenbaum, kidnapped by
Hizbollah in Switzerland, is a Mossad katsa, field officer.
He was in Switzerland on a mission personally approved by
Danny Yatom, the former director-general of Mossad, and now personal
adviser to Israel's prime minister, Ehud Barak.
The mission was to discover links between Hizbollah and
Iranian arms dealers and financiers who are believed by Israel to be the
behind the PLO uprising in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel.
Tannenbaum - who in the past has used a number of aliases
and passports on his missions to Switzerland - operated out of the
Mossad station in
Amsterdam's Schipol Airport.
The station forms part of the heavily-guarded El Al complex
at the airport. It is from there that Mossad controls its European
In the past three years Tannenbaum has carried out a number
of missions in various Swiss cities - including one in 1998 that was
intended to bug
the apartment of Abdullah Zein, the man Mossad believed was
Hizbollah's fund raiser in Europe. At the time he was living in
Liebefeld near Berne.
The operation became the most celebrated of Mossad's
bungled missions - and led to the sacking of Danny Yatom as Mossad's
Tannenbaum - then operating under the pseudonym of "Matti
Goldberg" - managed to escape from Switzerland. His companions were
police - and became the centre of a diplomatic furore
between Switzerland and Israel.
The kidnapping of Tannenbaum has rekindled the row this
Mossad has sent a team of officers to Switzerland to try
and trace how Tannenbaum was abducted.
Senior Tel Aviv intelligence sources told me yesterday that
they believe a "mole" inside a Swiss police agency may have tipped off
Tannenbaum was once again back in the country.
While Barak has called the kidnapping a "Mafia act", and
Hizbollah leader Sheikh Nassan Nasrallah has taunted Israel with "if you
want to know
what happened, go and search" - certain facts have emerged.
After the bungled 1998 operation, Tannenbaum was assigned
to the Mossad training school at Herzelia on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.
Then, when Yatom was appointed as Barak's security adviser,
he recalled Tannenbaum to active service.
With his background of being an artillery colonel in the
Israeli Defence Forces - Tannenbaum had served for a time on Israel's
northern border with
Lebanon - and his fluency in French and German, a cover
story was quickly devised for Tannenbaum.
He was given the cover of being a "consultant" to one of
Israel's leading arms manufacturers, Rafael.
Ten days ago he reported to his controllers at Mossad that
he had developed important contacts.
That was the last anybody in Israel has heard from him.
Mossad have established that he was in Lausanne at the
Its officers are trying to discover how Tannenbaum was
smuggled out of Europe and back to southern Lebanon. He is now in the
If so, Hizbollah have carried out a kidnapping that Mossad
itself would find hard to equal in its ruthless audacity.