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Spy blunder?

By Wolf Blitzer

Wolf Blitzer Reports
New Zealand
Helen Clark

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- It started with two Israelis convicted of trying illegally to obtain a New Zealand passport -- a valuable commodity in the world of international spy craft that can open up doors often closed to Israeli passport holders.

But along the way, a hugely embarrassing failure that has resulted in angry allegations of espionage, strained diplomatic relations between Israel and New Zealand, and now -- apparently -- the anti-Semitic desecration of a Jewish cemetery in New Zealand.

"That really makes me feel sick and reminds me of the history of the Jewish people where this has happened over and over again but never before in New Zealand," says David Zwartz, head of the New Zealand Jewish Council.

The Israelis, Urie Kelman and Eli Cara, are now serving six month jail terms in New Zealand -- after pleading guilty of trying to assume the identity of a wheelchair-bound New Zealander who has cerebral palsy.

It's a classic spy technique -- assume the identity of someone you know can't travel.

Both Israelis are suspected of being agents of Israel's Mossad spy agency.

"That's completely unacceptable, and I don't think there would be New Zealanders who would say that New Zealand should do nothing in the face of another country's agents trying to breach our sovereignty. We have to take a stand on that, regardless who the country is," says New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Prime Minister Clark has strongly condemned the vandalism at the cemetery, which authorities believe is the result of anger towards Israel. She also wants a formal apology from the Israeli government.

So far, that has not been forthcoming.

"Israel is very sorry about the decision that was taken by the government of New Zealand, but we believe that if we will work one with each other, as we used to work in the past, we will overcome the last difficulties," says Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

This isn't the first time the Israelis or others have blundered in the world of international espionage and probably won't be the last. I spoke with one Israeli close to the Mossad who made this point: When it comes to fighting terrorism, you have to take chances, and sometimes you get caught.

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