- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2007

JERUSALEM — Documents found recently have revealed that one of Israel’s founding fathers was a British spy who betrayed Jewish freedom fighters in the turbulent years before the state’s creation in 1948.

Teddy Kollek, who later served as mayor of Jerusalem for almost 30 years, fed sensitive information to the intelligence agency MI5 when Britain ran Palestine under a League of Nations mandate.

Evidence of Mr. Kollek’s secret past has been revealed in documents discovered at the Public Record Office in Kew in Surrey, England, by Ronen Bergman, an investigative journalist working for the Yediot Ahronot newspaper.

“From all the documents, it is clear he worked very closely with British intelligence for a number of years between 1943 and 1947,” Mr. Bergman said.

While there is no clear evidence that Mr. Kollek’s leaks led to anyone’s death, he certainly caused dozens of Jewish activists to be arrested and detained for lengthy periods.

Coming just a few months after Mr. Kollek’s death in January at age 95, the furor is likely to radically alter his place in Israel’s national hall of fame.

The fact that his secret past has only come to light now has added to the situation, with some commentators suggesting that the Israeli state has connived to suppress the information until he passed away.

Mr. Bergman said Mr. Kollek’s decision to help the British occurred at a time of deep divisions among Jews trying to create their own homeland.

As the occupying power, Britain’s occasionally ambivalent attitude toward the Zionist cause had led to deep frustrations, with more radical Jewish groups adopting terrorist tactics.

Mr. Kollek represented the more moderate, mainstream Zionism of the Jewish Agency, which embarked on what is still referred to as the “hunting season,” when it sought to neutralize the radicals’ bombing and murder campaigns.

The internecine fighting of the hunting season stirs bitter memories in Israel even today — memories that will be reactivated by the revelation.

In August 1945, when Mr. Kollek was acting as the de facto head of the Jewish Agency’s intelligence network, he tipped off his British handlers about a training camp in Shula run by the militant group Irgun.

British forces subsequently raided Shula, a center of radical Zionism where, ironically, the father of Ehud Olmert, the current Israeli prime minister, lived.

One of the MI5 documents reported “extremely good results” from the raid, after 27 suspects, including three women, were rounded up. Many were later jailed.

There is no suggestion Mr. Kollek was paid for his services, and it appears he only gave information in as much as it served the Jewish Agency’s side in the fratricidal conflict with the hard-liners.

However, Mr. Bergman said further revelations about Mr. Kollek are expected when remaining papers in his personal MI5 file are eventually declassified and made public.

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