Russian President Vladimir Putin.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MAXIM SHEMETOV)
There ain't no such thing as a free lunch for Russian President Vladimir Putin. If it is Russia that helped bring Zacharia Baumel's body, he will sooner or later collect the debt for the assistance that the intelligence services and his army lent to Israel to help locate the body. If Israel has not already paid. More than a hint of Russia's involvement in the operation can be found in a statement issued by the Defense Ministry spokesman in Moscow in September 2018, following the downing of a Russian spy plane by a Syrian missile fired near the Iranian air force targets in Syria. The Russian spokesman accused Israel of ingratitude and discovered that his country was helping to search for the bodies of missing IDF soldiers.
Israel refuses to give details on how Baumel's body was found so as not to reveal intelligence sources. But the fact that the body was flown to Israel can point to Russian aid. Since the battle in which Baumel and his comrades fell took place in Sultan Yacoub, it can be assumed that the body was found on Lebanese or Syrian soil, and from there it had to be flown through a third country to Israel. The fact that the IDF defines the process of locating and returning the body as an "operation" indicates that this is a military-intelligence operation.
For 37 years, the defense and intelligence establishment worked tirelessly to find the bodies of the three missing from Sultan Yacoub. The mission was entrusted to the Mossad, Military Intelligence and the Shin Bet. They asked international leaders and even foreign and Israeli journalists, including the author of this article, to try to obtain information, even the faintest. The Oslo Accords of 1994 allowed Israel to use Yasser Arafat and the PLO, which provided information and findings. There was no stone unturned and millions of dollars spent on exploration, but without any results.
It can be assumed that the great turning point began with the civil war in Syria. The loss of control of Bashar Assad and the central government in Damascus over large areas of the country, dominated by rebel groups, opened new opportunities for Israeli intelligence. According to foreign reports, some of these organizations, assisted by Israeli intelligence, have also been recruited for the mission. About a year ago, the Mossad managed to obtain the watch of Eli Cohen, an Israeli intelligence spy who was hanged in Damascus in 1965.
Now, the combined efforts of Israeli intelligence officials have brought another achievement to Israeli intelligence. The result is mainly humanitarian and important to the family. It is also an encouraging sign for the rest of the families of those missing. It attests to the deep commitment to bring bodies of fighters for burial in Israel. One must not be cynical.
There is no doubt that the IDF and intelligence, whose commitment and conduct is state, did not consider the elections. Their decisions were purely operational, intelligence, and professional. But just as on the eve of the elections in June 1981, the date for the destruction of the nuclear reactor in Iraq was determined on the basis of operational considerations that helped Prime Minister Menachem Begin to be reelected, bringing back the body of Zechariah Baumel to the grave of Israel will not harm Benjamin Netanyahu, who is now on his way to Moscow, even if it has nothing to do with it, to another meeting with Putin.
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