Israeli connection emerges in Betancourt release

The New York Times July 3 alluded to an Israeli role in the dramatic rescue of Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other FARC hostages in Colombia: “On Colombian television, Ms. Betancourt wept and smiled as she recounted a chain of events that seemed scripted for film, complete with Colombian agents infiltrating guerrilla camps and borrowing Israeli tracking technology to zero in on their target.” But a July 4 report from Israels’ YNet indicates the Israeli role in the operation may have been far greater:

Last year, a group of Israeli military advisors, receiving approval from the Israeli Defense Ministry, resided in Colombia in order to assist the army there and especially the special units.

The Israeli consultation was focused mainly on intelligence issues, special operations and integration and coordination between different security elements. This was in order to prepare them for a coordinated and productive campaign within a short period of time.

The group was headed by Major-General (Res.) Israel Ziv, who served as the head of operations in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit up until four years ago.

Ziv and at least some of his men have already returned but it is likely that the consultation he gave to the Colombian security forces assisted them in attaining the list of successes they have been enduring lately against the FARC rebel organization.

It is estimated, that the Israeli advisors did not participate in the impressive mission. In discussions with those close to him, Ziv emphasized that while in Colombia, he punctiliously abstains from actually involving himself in Colombia’s military and security operations and is content with solely supplying them with advice.

However, there is no doubt that the Israeli counseling, especially in the realm of intelligence and that connected with the use of covert operational tactics, greatly assisted the Colombian security forces in improving their capabilities.

The London Times adds July 4:

…Israeli media also reported that military advisers and officers from its intelligence service, Mossad, had helped plan and execute the operation. One of the advisers credited with helping the Colombians is a retired Israeli Army officer named Israel Ziv.

Mr Ziv, who set up his own company after retiring from the Israeli Army in 2005 and was reported to have been paid $10 million, said: “We have an indirect relationship (with the Colombians). Our help is very significant, giving them sophisticated instruments in the anti-terrorist fight. The Colombians are very like us in their determination and creativity.”

Note that these reports are inconsistent, with YNet attaching Maj.-Gen. Ziv to military intelligence, and the London Times (by implication) to Mossad. It is also unclear whether there were (or are) “official” Israeli advisors in Colombia, directly sent by the Israeli government, as well as the apparently private $10 million deal approved by the Israeli government.

Does anyone have more information?

See our last post on the Betancourt case and Israel in Colombia.