November 22, 2011 - 1:00am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday stepped in to resolve a dispute between Israel's Mossad intelligence agency and the Foreign Ministry that in recent weeks brought cooperation between the organizations to a grinding halt.

Netanyahu on Sunday summoned Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Mossad chief Tamir Pardo for a meeting at the end of which both men agreed to put their disagreements behind them, Army Radio reported.

Tensions between the two bodies intensified as of late, after Lieberman discovered that the fabled spook shop withheld details from him regarding contacts it held with a foreign country or possibly a clandestine operation conducted abroad, Israeli media reported Friday.

Lieberman, enraged by the prospect that Mossad was meddling in the jurisdiction of Israel's diplomatic community while, at the same time, refusing to share its intelligence output with diplomats, ordered his ministry to sever ties with the agency.

Some of the punitive measures included a refusal to issue diplomatic passports and visas to Mossad officials, as well as holding off the transfer of classified cables received from the Foreign Ministry's missions abroad.

Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonot on Friday attributed the latest feud to a recent decision by Netanyahu to entrust the task of mending Israel's ties with Turkey to David Meidan, a former top Mossad official who successfully negotiated a prisoner-swap deal with the Islamic Hamas Movement for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in October.

Mark Regev, a Netanyahu spokesman, declined to comment on reports earlier this month that Meidan is due to head to Ankara to seek a compromise on the wording of a formal Israeli apology for the deaths of nine Turkish nationals, killed in a naval raid aboard a ship that attempted to breach Israel's maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip in May 2010. Ankara has conditioned the normalization of bilateral ties on such an apology.

The traditional turf war between Mossad and the Foreign Ministry, usually fought over the former's refusal to share intelligence, upped a notch since Lieberman's appointment to foreign minister in 2009, with bureaucratic confrontations periodically leading to mutual accusations and boycotts.

Earlier this year, Mossad officers allegedly volunteered to temporarily assume the duties of diplomats when the latter launched a strike over low pay and work conditions.

Israeli officials on Friday said Netanyahu is mulling to establish a government panel that would clearly set the division of labor and power between Mossad and the diplomatic community, in order to prevent future similar crises.


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