Washington and Jerusalem turned to back door channels Monday, June 13 to procure the quick release of dual US-Israeli citizen Ilan Grapel whom the Egyptian Supreme Security Prosecutor announced Sunday had been arrested as an alleged Israeli Mossad spy. Monday night, Israel announced that a thorough check had confirmed he had no connection with any Israeli intelligence organization. The Israeli foreign ministry reported that Cairo had not notified Jerusalem of the arrest, while the US State Department is checking to see if any word had come through to Washington.
Western intelligence circles suggest that the Egyptians may have found it convenient to "find" a Mossad spy even if they suspected him of working undercover for other Western organizations.
debkafile's sources report that the US and Israeli applications to Cairo are high-powered and urgent. They have gone as high as Field Marshall Mohammed Tantawi, Chairman of the Supreme Military Council ruling Egypt, for fear that if the Grapel affair drags on, the climate in Egypt against an alleged inciter of Muslim-Coptic strife will be too heated to get him released.
As debkafile reported Sunday, Egyptian Intelligence Minister Murad Muwafi and State Security Prosecutor Hisham Badawi were responsible for planting their Israeli spy scandal on front pages worldwide as part of a calculated campaign to blacken Israel's name along with other defamatory "disclosures." Tantanwi may not even have been brought into the picture and would have been as taken aback as much as Washington and Jerusalem.
Indeed, in the delicate post-revolutionary relationships prevailing between the US and Egypt and Israel and Egypt, the last thing the military junta needs is the complication of a long court case against an American-Israeli citizen. If it went to trial, the Grapel case would open in the grim atmosphere of the trial opening August 3 for ex-President Hosni Mubarak and his two sons Gemal and Alaa and be an asset to the prosecution.
debkafile's Middle East sources report that it is more than likely that Muwafi and Badawi also believed that stirring up anti-Israel sentiment in the Egyptian street would be a useful diversion from the anarchy and lack of a firm hand at the helm of government in Cairo.
Monday, the Egyptian prosecution added to the charges against Grapel: Entering Egypt on a European passport with a forged Egyptian visa stamp – as evidence that his presence was clandestine. He is also now accused of scoping out the Mubarak following, the situation on the Egyptian-Gaza and Egyptian-Israeli borders and the security measures for the Egyptian-Israeli gas pipeline.
debkafile: Raising these suspicions against the alleged spy indicates the intention to tie his case to the charges against the Mubaraks.
The alleged spy's father, Daniel Grapel, speaking from his home in Queens, New York, said his son was a student at Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Georgia and had visited Egypt as part of his study program. He had planned to stay there until the end of August before returning home to his studies.
Ilan spent time in Israel, he said, serving in the IDF's 101st Paratroop Unit. He was wounded in battle in the 2006 Lebanon war between Israel and Hizballah.