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Scandal THURSDAY, 13 March 2008

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Operation Compatriots Suffers Fiasco

Moscow oligarchs set up an alliance for stymieing Israeli-Russian businessmen


According to a well-informed source, the leaders of the Foreign Intelligence of Russia are worried about the impact of the scandal that erupted in Israel. On November 5, the Israeli police international intelligence department (Yakhbal) arrested the far-right activist Avigdor Eskin and two private eyes, Rafi Pridan and Aviv Mor, on suspicion of illegal wiretapping of Israeli Vice Premier and Minister of Strategic Planning Avigdor Lieberman and businessman Michael Chernoy.
As reports the Israeli police, the commissioner was "a certain Russian oligarch. This, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. The special services of Russia are worried that in the course of the investigation the Israeli police might disclose an "independent" undermining activity commissioned by certain oligarchs close to the Kremlin and this might well cast a shadow over the Russian special services (see: picasaweb.google.com/pics2all/Documents).
A journalistic enquiry has shown that certain Moscow oligarchs (some of them former business partners of Gusinski, Nevzlin and Chernoy) have actually set up an alliance aiming to stymie the Israeli-Russian businessmen settled in Israel. The aim is to curry favor with the Kremlin, advance their own business interests, protect themselves from the future lawsuits of their ex-partners, get tax breaks from the government, etc.
Initially, the Russian special services gave their tacit agreement to the operation, as the first two in the group are the political foes of the Kremlin, while the third is by no means a pet.
To make sure the campaign would look different from a mere vendetta against the former business partners and get extra points for "patriotism" from the Kremlin, the special services of Moscow oligarchs decided to design it as an unofficial offshoot of the Compatriots campaign. Its original purpose was to impose political influence over the Russian-speaking communities within the Diaspora that refuse to toe Moscow's line and defame/control the political and business leaders of the community.
In Israel, Shcharanski and Lieberman perfectly fit into the first group, while Chernoy, Nevzlin and Gusinski obviously belong in the second one. 
Once upon a time, Anatoly Shcharanski became the first target of this campaign: his party, Yisrael B'aliya, became a target of a smearing campaign financed from Russia, in which Yuli Nudleman, a civil-rights activist, was the figurehead. A well-staffed headquarters, comprising political technologists and former officers of GRU and KGB, carried through a masterful operation that made Lieberman's attacks against Shcharanski even fiercer. (Lieberman, leader of Israel Our Home, is another leader of Russian-Israeli community who takes further-right, nationalistic positions.) This politician, availing of vast PR resources and a network of local activists, actually wiped out Shcharanski as a political player.
However, at the next stage of the campaign, Lieberman himself has turned into a target. The man is not only a political leader who has to be kept under control, but also a close friend of another business target in the game, Michael Chernoy. Somebody Alexey Drobashenko, a member of the so-called Eurasian group, has become the Dispatcher in the campaign. He dispensed money in Israel.(By the way, the latter is an associate of Deripaska.) At the first stage of the operation, private eyes of the Israeli investigation office Matara were hired as consultants. Matara was set up in 2004 by Yoram Hessel, ex-head of Tevel, Mossad's international liaison division, formerly a chief resident of Mossad in Washington.
The main chore of Matara was to shadow the listed targets, monitor their rate of influence in the Israeli political life and find their vulnerable spots. The work has been done. Yet, very soon Matara severed its ties with the commissioners: Hessel realized that cooperation with the Russian special services and the indictable activities planned by the launchers of the campaign could seriously mar his own reputation. On the basis of data collected and processed by Matara, the contractors marked the Achilles heel of Lieberman that they were to hit to discredit him as a politician. The three targeted oligarchs had to be deprived of the juridical protection of the state questioning the legality of their citizenship.

Two Israeli private eyes were hired to wiretap the targets along with two Russian-speaking coordinators - Avigdor Eskin and David Edelman, as well as a dozen of black PR pros of a smaller caliber. Eskin, is an extremist who served a term in jail for an attempt at terror acts plotting. In particular, he was indicted for an attempt to catapult a pig's head into the yard of the Al-Aksa Mosque. The nationalist "camp" of Israel, however, has suspicions that Eskin is a provocateur who was contracted to discredit the right wing.
After having served his term Eskin moves to Moscow where he features as a Russian ultra nationalist. (Currently, for instance, he demands that Estonia be wiped out from the world map.) The special services of Russia - both those who work for individual oligarchs and those of a broader specter of activities - appreciated and drew in this "red-brown" (read Communist-Nazi) Orthodox Jew. What lured Eskin into the campaign against Lieberman (the traitor of the Great Israel) and Gusinski-Nevzlin-Chernoy (traitors of the Great Russia,) apart from a generous remuneration, was the fact that it was in concert with his own civic pose.
The other coordinator of the campaign, Edelman, was recruited because of his post - press secretary for Kadima ruling party in charge of Russian issues. This position paved his way to the ministers, on whom the destiny of the targeted oligarchs depended, and to the mass media.
His "helping hand" in this operation was Ilya Rosenfeld, coordinator for the youth issues department in the Russian-language sector of the Kadima party. Eskin's task was to focus on Liebernan and Chernoy. He harnessed his own cohort among the extremists of the outlawed Kach movement who posted out placards featuring Lieberman as a "poodle of the Russian Mafia" around Jerusalem and published articles stigmatizing Lieberman and Chernoy as "Christian missionaries" in the ultra orthodox Israeli press.
To create the illusion that both left and right wings attack Chernoy and Lieberman in Israel (read, the entire community,) Mark Babichkov, former Russian-speaking advisor to the Labor Party of Israel was ushered to the scene. On behalf of the "public" he submitted an inquiry to the Israeli Ministry of Home Affairs aiming at depriving Michael Chernoy of his citizenship and launched a similar inquiry undersigned by members of the far-left Meretz party. Almost identical application demanding to strip Nevzlin of Israeli citizenship was sent on behalf of Knesset ex-member, "human rights activist" Nudleman.
Israeli lawyer Yoram Mushkat has become the engine driver in the campaign for expatriation of Nevzlin to Russia.
Meanwhile a lawsuit was framed up against the Maariv daily. Misleading information was fed to the newspaper alleging that a commission with the Israeli Home Affairs Ministry headed by Zvi Inbar recommended to the minister to strip Chernoy of Israeli citizenship. Inbar, however, disproved the allegations saying that he has never given such a recommendation.
Edelman and Rosenfeld were instructed to concentrate on the campaign against the "targeted persons" in the Russian-language mass media. However, most of the editors and leading journalists who were approached to join in the operation (for a certain fee) declined to cooperate. Then, the initiators of the campaign posted on the Internet two anonymous Russian-language websites - Khakira and Israfile - uploading clips from the Russian press with smearing materials about the Israeli public figures, from Olmert to Gaydamak.
Be as it may, the master key of these sites, i.e. the original materials designed especially for them, were aimed exclusively against Lieberman and the three oligarchs. As far as Nevzlin was concerned, the websites posted articles labeling him as a "bloody card-sharper" and "murderer" claiming that the "Israeli community" do not want to throw themselves onto a pill-box to defend him from Russian demands to hand in "this criminal."
It was more difficult to find faults with Gusinski, who rarely visited the Holy Land and was very cautious when he did. When it came to him, the campaigners used the label "money launderer" and would revamp the mothballed Hapoalim Bank case. The Israeli police have been trying to implicate Gusinski, Nevzlin and Gaydamak into this framed up affair but to no avail.
To let the Moscow commissioners report to the State (or rather show up and climb the career ladder) the websites started to exploit another topic - a "plot Gusinski, Berezovski and Nevzlin had hatched against Putin." The aim was to prove that their private Sootechestvenniki (Compatriots) campaign has not been staged to cater to narrow mercenary interests, but was to the benefit of Motherland. Referring to their targets the campaign launchers wrote, for instance, that the three allegedly planned to explode the region of Povolzhje inciting inter-ethnic strife there. Along with that - true to the spirit of the Compatriots campaign - these websites kept going over and over one refrain: "the impossible life in Israel" and recommended to the Russian-speaking repatriates to come back to Russia.
Nevertheless, in spite of heavy investments, the campaign has not yielded the desired results. Lieberman did not turn himself in to Moscow and refused to be "enlisted for service" in order to stop the smearing campaign.
As for the three oligarchs, Gusinski is quite popular on the "Russian Street" in Israel thanks to his RTVi channel, whereas Chernoy and Nevzlin are famous throughout Israel for their charity projects that cement the Zionist foundation of the state. Nevzlin has focused his attention on education and academic projects strengthening the Jewish identity. Chernoy's name is associated with the information war against terrorism that won him a reputation of a "key sponsor of neo-conservatism and the enemy of Islam" on the pro-jihad websites.

The inefficiency of the abovementioned websites made the Moscow launchers of the campaign turn to more forceful initiatives. They approached Israeli Minister of Interior Affairs Meir Sheetrit and Avi Dichter, Internal Security Minister, aiming to bribe them into giving out Nevzlin and Chernoy to the Russian prosecution and depriving them of the Israeli citizenship allegedly "yielding to the pressure of the Jewish public."
In the context of the recent events several leads have emerged. According to one of them, the attempt at bribing the ministers was disclosed by the police and the contractors were put under surveillance. To the official version of the Israeli police, Lieberman lodged a complaint because the spies took a wrong step and leaked to the press the content of his private telephone conversation. Certain sources maintain that it was Shabak (Israeli counter-intelligence service) that revealed the plot. The security of the Israeli ministers is exactly their sphere of competence. Lieberman is the minister who currently has access to super confidential information; he coordinates the Israeli policy towards Iran, including a possible preemptive strike against the nuclear sites of this country. Shabak found out that the Minister's phones were bugged and the trace led to Russia.
To avoid a diplomatic scandal with Russia Shabak chose not to declare it a "counter-intelligence operation." They simply disabled the bugs and passed the case onto the police who made arrests further on. The Russian special services that shrugged off these "Judaic wars" so far, all of a sudden appeared highly concerned: wiretapping the minister of strategic planning and the attempt of the Russian special agents - even if they work for private employers - to bribe Israeli ministers (actually a step away from recruiting them) brings Russia to the verge of a new "Litvinenko-like scandal. It would give the Israeli government a trump in the game with Russia, which the Kremlin doesn't need at all.
Nowadays Israel asks Russia not to sell their C-300 anti-missile complexes that would render helpless the Israeli air defence, while Russia is bargaining not only from the position of strength but (formally) from the position of moral right, as they can strike a deal with Damascus in compliance with the international law. Hence, to give Israel a trump, i.e. the moral right based on charges of espionage and attempt at recruiting cabinet members, is not at all what Moscow would want. Especially for such a triviality as accounts squaring among some businessmen, be they even pets of the Kremlin.

Operation Sootechestvenniki (Compatriots) commissioned by scandalous Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska against businessman Michael Chernoy has ended in a total fiasco. The Standart has launched an international journalistic enquiry and described the details of the smear campaign involving politicians and journalists. Stringer, a Russian news agency, also published a series of materials commenting on the below-the-waist blows rained on Chernoy. For several days now Delovaya Gazeta daily also runs a detailed account of the failure of Operation Compatriots. Quoting Russian sources Delovaya Gazeta posted sixty e-mails revealing how exactly the associates of Deripaska had hatched a plot against Chernoy. The sources of The Standard made these document available to our newspaper too. They are a convincing illustration to the dirty PR campaign and the attempts at manipulating the public opinion.









Honorable Avigdor, hello!

I' sending you some materials concerning our "boy" and, of course, I confirm the interest in a broad developing of the topic that we discussed with you in Moscow.

With respect,
Alexey

Honorable Alexei Sergeevich,

I'm glad to inform you that I have made progress in our affair. I have obtained the concent of a very influential persdon to perform the role of "Nudelman."

I'm awaiting from you the additional information and the confirmation of your interest in the project.

With deep honor,
Avigdor































Good day,

1. I have read the material. I think it is already necessary to do a sample of the article that we would like to be published by the media. The most important and interesting moments should be underlined and by us and introduced as already done to the journalists together with the full text. It is worthwhile to check the text. There are discrepancies. For example, Berezovsky has never had an Israeli citizenship.
I think we can place it in the Russian-language media in Israel and other Russian-language publications. We will try to move it into other publications.

2. By all means I will redo the material I have presented concerning M.Ch. (Michael Cherney) in conformity with your instructions. I want to stress that this document has been received from the most reliable source in the Israeli police, who (the source) is dealing with our themes precisely. Even if inaccuracies are found in it (which will surprise me very much) the document reflects the understanding and official position of the Israeli police, which is important in itself.

See you soon,

Avigdor
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