Israel’s Top Spy Kidnapped Eichmann, Ran Pollard, Stole U.S. Uranium, Created Hezbollah
Israel’s top weekly TV newsmagazine, Uvdah, features a profile of Israel’s most-storied living spy, Rafi Eitan. The stories of his exploits as operations chief within the Mossad are legend: he began his career by kidnapping Eichmann and returning him to face justice in Israel. In 1968, while serving as an Israeli ministry of defense “chemist” he visited the U.S. uranium enrichment facility. Later, 200 pounds of materials were discovered stolen and believed to have played a crucial role in accelerating Israel’s own WMD program. Though the U.S. investigated the theft and discovered the culprits, the results were never released and no findings were ever made.
Eitan played a key role in the planning of the 1981 Israeli attack on Iraq’s Osirak reactor, which led to its destruction. In 1984, while heading LEKEM, an intelligence unit tasked with recruiting sources from technical-scientific backgrounds, he recruited and ran Jonathan Pollard, a U.S. Navy analyst. While Pollard was active as an Israeli spy, he offered Israel a treasure trove of material on the Soviet navy. The damage Pollard did to U.S. intelligence was massive. Eitan’s failure came when Pollard fell under suspicion and was eventually captured by the FBI’s counter-espionage unit. Then, the damage Eitan’s intelligence asset did to U.S.-Israel relations was immeasurable and has colored our relations ever since. The spy was eventually sentenced to life in prison. Israeli prime ministers and the Israel Lobby in the U.S. have mounted repeated attempts to free him, which have failed due to counter-pressure exerted by the U.S. intelligence community.
One previously unknown facet of the story of Pollard’s exposure as an Israeli agent involved an escape plan which Eitan activated when it became clear Pollard had become a suspect. For some reason, Pollard never fled as the plan had directed. He waited three days and then tried to gain asylum at the Israeli embassy. It was Eitan himself who refused him entry, realizing that giving him refuge would cause an even worse breach with the U.S. government than allowing him to be caught and tried.
Eitan returned home and accepted full responsibility for the Pollard affair. He resigned his position, Lekem was disbanded, and Eitan’s spy career was over. Israel promised (falsely) that it would never spy on the U.S. again. It continues doing so to this day.
An interesting personal anecdote concerns Eitan’s post-career hobby as a sculptor. It strangely mirrors Meir Dagan’s hobby as a painter and art collector. What personal schizoid psychological phenomena is it within these individuals that allows them to transition from cold-blooded killers to refined artists? Let’s not forget that Hitler himself was a landscape artist (one of his paintings sold this week for $164,000) before his rise to power.
One notorious and hitherto secret operation for which Eitan deserves far more ‘credit’ is the key role he played in the formation of Hezbollah. Eitan’s wife, Miriam, who for decades played the traditional Israeli role of dutiful wife and silent witness, reveals via her personal diary, Eitan’s efforts in founding the Islamist group:
She remained quiet when he disappeared for days on end in Lebanon and founded there a militant Shiite organization which, in future days would come to be Hezbollah.
He initially conceived Hezbollah as a counter to the power of Arafat’s PLO within Lebanon. It’s virtually the same strategy Israel used in founding Hamas, also a little known chapter in Israeli intelligence history told in the Wall Street Journal (of all places!). In this circumstance too, after trying and failing numerous times to create quisling Palestinian entities to combat the supremacy of the PLO, it determined to found an Islamist organization to counter-balance the secular Fatah.
In both cases, Israel’s strategy succeeded beyond its wildest dreams. In fact, both Islamist groups, like the legendary Golem from the medieval Jewish folktale, took on a life of their own and escaped the clutches of their creators. Once they became independent, they turned into Israel’s worst nightmare. Anyone who’s seen the film, Charley Wilson’s War, will understand that the CIA determined to do the same with the Afghan mujahadeen, in fighting the Russians. Instead, they eventually spawned Osama bin Laden. Similarly, in trying to bring the downfall of Bashar al-Assad the U.S. and Gulf States built up the radical Islamist Sunni groups that became Al Nusra and ISIS. This sort of strategy almost always leads to unforeseen fatal consequences. These are tragedies borne by future generations. The geniuses who conceive these ideas rarely have to live with, or take responsibility for what they’ve done.
For once, I’d like a Meir Dagan or Rafi Eitan to look back on the mayhem they’ve wrought and pronounce upon themselves the ultimate fate, as this medical doctor did (Hebrew), who served as Eitan’s medical specialist during his exploits kidnapping Israeli enemies and traitors. Dr. Elian realized he’d betrayed his Hippocratic Oath in serving as Eitan’s facilitator of state-sponsored vengeance or murder. He couldn’t live with himself. The problem with men like Eitan and Dagan is that they have enormous reserves of self-deceit that protect them from seeing what they’ve done.
Miriam doesn’t share the same megalomania. She is a woman very aware of her husband’s weaknesses and the compromises she’s had to make to remain his partner. She is someone who confides them to her diary, though she will tell virtually no one else, not even her husband. In the Mako story, she recounts her shame at hearing that her husband, in 1988 during the days of the First Intifada, as Yitzhak Rabin is telling his troops to break the bones of demonstrators, gives a TV interview in which he advocates unleashing attack-dogs on the Palestinians. In those days, when Israel’s moral conscience was somewhat more refined, such echoes of the acts of the Nazis who sicced their dogs on helpless Jewish victims, raised horrible memories. Eitan, who’d been trying to recover his own reputation after the Pollard fiasco, was reviled. Miriam herself wanted to flee. His words repelled her. But she’d been trained to be the helpmeet, to keep her views to herself. In the end, she compromised and remained with him despite her understanding of the ‘small-mindedness’ of which he was capable.
In many ways, this is a moral wrestling that all Israelis with consciences must experience. Can you live with the compromises your husband or country demand from you? Can you live with yourself when you see such ugliness? Most can, but some can’t.
Though some of us, reading Miriam’s words, root for her to have the courage to leave. We must understand how hard it is for a lone individual to make such a frightening choice. In the same way, it’s hard for the average Israeli to consider uprooting himself from the land, language, and country which nurtured him or her. But I believe that more and more will be forced to make such choices as conditions continue to deteriorate inside Israel. It’s a sad, tragic situation.
25 thoughts on “Israel’s Top Spy Kidnapped Eichmann, Ran Pollard, Stole U.S. Uranium, Created Hezbollah – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
Comments are published at the sole discretion of the owner.
Sorry to go off topic but Richard, you may want to address this from Alternet:
“Wilkes says he is an admirer of Israel boosters Alan Dershowitz and Richard Silverstein. He also expresses approval of David Mamet’s book The Secret Knowledge, in which Mamet compares affirmative action with chattel slavery and writes that “the Israelis would like to live in peace within their borders; the Arabs would like to kill them all.”
OMG, either Wilkes is odious or the writer make a huge error. In fact, Wilkes smeared me in the pages of the local Jewish paper & I had to threaten to convene a beit din in order to publish a denial.
No. Eitan did not create Hezbollah.
“…Iranian diplomats and agents could help fashion the unified entity Hezbollah from a motley crew of Shi’a militias and groups….”
” Hezbollah emerged with financial backing from Iran in the early 1980s and began a struggle to drive Israeli troops from Lebanon’.
You should not be so opaque and shallow if you try to understand a public movement. Why can’t both be part of the truth?
Why does it not surprise me that David Mamet turned out to be a crazy fascist?
Surely all spies are by definition above the law in all countries and their illegal actions are clandestinely approved of with a wink and a nudge by the PM and defense minister of each respective country, who then deny when confronted with the truth.
That’s why countries run spies as without them the law would lead to their ultimate downfull.
@ Shmuel: Stuff & nonsense. That sounds suitably Israeli-cynical because it’s how things are done in Israel by Israelis. But it’s not generally done that way in other western countries. That’s why so many Israeli spies are exposed, arrested & jailed in this country. We do have rules for how diplomats and even spies may or may not operate. When they break the rules (if we catch them) we put ’em in jail.
“He initially conceived Hezbollah as a counter to the power of Arafat’s PLO within Lebanon”
Wait. If Israel invaded Lebanon in June of ’82 and the PLO was forced out of Lebanon in August ’82. When did Eitan have time to ‘create’ Hezbollah?
“Let’s not forget that Hitler himself was a landscape artist….”
He did landscapes because he stunk at drawing the human form. You see mountains and town squares, but no people.
“What personal schizoid psychological phenomena is it within these individuals that allows them to transition from cold-blooded killers to refined artists?”
Doing statuary and more conservative forms of painting requires skill and technique, along with planning. Running a dictatorship or a spy bureau requires planning, skill and technique…..just different skills and techniques from the plastic arts or canvas work.
there is a theory that walter sickert, a late 19th-early 20th century artist of some repute was ‘jack the ripper’. don’t know.
as for Hezbollah, it was already a formidable force by 1982, so it should be assumed that it’s formative years pre-date the Israeli invasion. and there is nothing the least surprising about western intelligence exploiting military-religious organizations, to their subsequent regret. or not. a few broken store front windows is always good for business interests in the long term.
“as for Hezbollah, it was already a formidable force by 1982”
Got a cite?
My source has Hezbollah only forming post 1982.
Waiting for a cite.
Your source is incorrect then. Iranians were already training Hezbollah in Lebanon, by mid-1982 at least. Perhaps I’ve overstated the case with ‘formidible’, but the movement predates the Israeli invasion, coming out of the Lebanese civil war. It is my memory that Iran and Syria had an interest in supporting a Shia movement on account of the civil war, but that interest became more active after the invasion.
All my cites are correct. See page 11.
“Although Hezbollah first emerged following the 1982 Israeli invasion, the organization did not coalesce into a centralized party until a few years later”.
Hezbollah grew from an assortment of militias that left Amal in order to confront the IDF’s presence in Lebanon. Israel invaded Lebanon in June 1982 and quickly overstayed it’s welcome.
My point is that Rafi Eitan did not ‘create’ Hezbollah like a golem. To say so, confuses history and confounds common sense.
Israel nominally supported Amal, whose main backers were Syria and Iran.
Hezbollah split off from Amal, received Iranian training in Lebanon and would later begin attacking the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon.
red, you’re confused. first you write that ‘my source has Hezbollah only forming post 1982’, yet that source, as well others I have read, have the IRGC in Lebanon in 1982 training Hezbollah members. it is true that Hezbollah did not publish its political platform so to speak until a few years later, however the Shia cells that coalesced into Hezbollah were formed and active in the early 80s.
“Militant followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini, Hezbollah’s original cadres were organized and trained by a 1,500-member contingent of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, who arrived in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley in the summer of 1982, with the permission of the Syrian government. For Iran, whose efforts to spread the Islamic revolution to the Arab world had been stymied by its war with Iraq, Hezbollah provided a means of gaining a foothold in Middle East politics. ”
And there is nothing irreconcilable about Eitan making contact with religious militants opposed to the PLO, those same militants being later supported by Iran and Syria. (That Eitan ‘founded’ a militant Shia organization that later became Hezbollah is both probably a bit of boasting and historical accuracy, as Hezbollah, whether it was ‘founded’ in 1982 or not, arose from a prior organization or organizations. It didn’t just form in June 1982, and a month later, Iran sent off 1500 elite troops in support of it.)
No. I’m quite clear.
Former members of Amal broke away from Amal and swore allegiance to the Shi’a clerics affiliated with Iran. These groups that broke away from Amal began traing, by Iran, in Lebanon, in 1982, but these groups hadn’t yet coalesced into the Hezbollah we know today.
If Rafi Eitan told me himself that he ‘created’ Hezbollah, I wouldn’t believe him and whoever peddles this fabrication is acting irresponsibly.
Richard said, “He initially conceived Hezbollah as a counter to the power of Arafat’s PLO within Lebanon”
This is a nonsensical speculation meant to bolster the fallacy that Eitan ‘created’ Hezbollah.
It’s makes no difference whether it’s the Eitan as Frankenstein canard or the poor Pakistani cricketeer abused by Israel canard. It’s the same monotonous drip..drip..drip of the anti-Israel water torture.
The pro’s or the anti’s who have hard-on’s for Israel amaze me. If either the pro’s or anti’s actually came and lived in Israel for, say, two years, I guarantee that hard-on would shrivel down to a nubbin.
@ Red Eft: I love it when the hasbara brigade tells me or someone else like Miriam Eitan, that we’re “behaving irresponsibly.” It usually means: “You’re exposing secrets that will get Israeli intelligence & perhaps even average Israelis into trouble. How dare you put us in danger.” To which I respond: if you don’t like the consequence of exposure of the secret then don’t put yourself in danger in the first place by doing whatever stupid thing you did.”
Further, you have a lot of friggin’ nerve telling Miriam Eitan what she should or shouldn’t say about her family past. As for what & whether you believe her claim that he founded Hezbollah, I could care less. If you’ll read carefully (which appears to be a weakness of many hasbarists) you’ll note that the reporter said that Eitan spent many nights aways founding the group “that became” Hezbollah.
I’m giving you a warning: if you use the term “anti-Israel” here again in association with what I write you will not be commenting here further. Neither I, nor what I write is “anti-Israel.” It is the truth with evidence offered to prove it. It is a critique of Israeli policy. It’s your problem alone if a critique of national policy appears to you to be hostile to the country itself. Again, that’s your own weakness, not mine.
“Eitan spent many nights aways founding the group “that became” Hezbollah”
“that became” is different from “created”. She said “that became” and you turned it into “created”.
Also, Hezbollah grew from a coalition of groups, not a single group.
Irresponsible is when you say that Eitan “created” Hezbollah when you know full well that Iran and Syria had much, more to do with the creation of Hezbollah than any other Israel or any other State.
@ Red Eft: This is much ado about nothing. Israel’s top spy doesn’t spend months on secret trips to Lebanon unless he’s engaged in very substantive covert ops. No one would believe an Israeli was the sole founder of Hezbollah. But did he play an instrumental role in its founding or the founding of the group that eventually became Hezbollah? You bet.
You & I are done on this subject. Do not publish another comment on it.
@ Red Eft: I think Marc B. is right. Check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Hezbollah#Shi.27a_political_movement_before_Hezbollah
Also going back to the early 1980s there would not have been necessarily anything incongruous about Israel and Iran backing the same players in Lebanon. Before, the Iranian Revolution, under the Shah, the IDF had established a close working relationship with the Iranian military. That relationship quietly continued after the Iranian Revolution occurred, especially during the time of the war between Iran and Iraq, when Israel was tilting towards the Iranians.
Well on the plus side looks like israel is heading to new elections. Haaretz has a new poll and from some quick math it appears shas is king maker again. I do hope that with the new election rules the arab parties and maretz join together to ensure a left center win and if lucky get the country back on course.
@ ben: Are you daft? An Israeli Jewish party like Meretz joining with a Palestinian party? Never in a million yrs. Meretz is exclusionist. They’ll accept individual Palestinian Israelis but they’re a Zionist party & could never embrace Palestinian nationalists, which most Israeli Palestinians are.
Stop believing elections will do anything other than making things worse.
Richard you know I’m a hopeless optimistic fool. But you have to dream a dream to have a dream come true. Sure maretz and the arab parties might not formally join but tgey could be allies which is just as important. Furthermore my predicted unity of the arab parties seems to be a reality as ynet is claiming and there is a strong likely hood the Ahmed tibi will lead which i might add ivhave admiration for. So that would bring the arab list up to 16 mks which is a sizeable block that coupled with maretz getting 7 mks would make a strategic alliance. The arab list could act much like the bloc quebecois in canada. They dont have to join tge goverment to support it when a bill is in tgeir interest and moreover getting 16 votes of support would make the arab list a key figure for keeping and left wing israeli government alive http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4598975,00.html
Israel has been accused of spying more intensively on the US than is done by any other of the US’s allies. But apart from these illegal activities Israel has damaged American military security by passing on US military technology to China:
“In early 1992, for example, the George H.W. Bush administration accused Israel of illegally “transferring” to China the Patriot anti-missile system, which the Pentagon deployed in Israel during the Kuwait crisis. Not satisfied with the Israeli denial, State Department inspector general Sherman Funk sent a team to Israel to investigate the allegations. While investigation failed to find a “smoking gun,” the damage was, nevertheless, significant.
Successive directors of the Central Intelligence Agency, most vocally Robert Gates and R. James Woolsey, have voiced suspicion over Israel’s dealings with China. Testifying before a Senate committee in October 1993, Woolsey said, “We believe the Chinese seek from Israel advanced military technology that U.S. and Western firms are unwilling to provide.”
In 1994, U.S. media reports accused Israel of unauthorized transfer of technology associated with the Lavi jet fighter to China. While Israel Aircraft Industries developed the light combat aircraft as an Israeli venture, it relied on U.S. financial support and technology transfers for such key components as the engines. The cancellation of the project in August 1987 resulted in military industry layoffs. The Israeli government looked to Chinese demand for technology to upgrade its F-10 fighters as an opportunity.
In October 1999, President Bill Clinton formally opposed a deal for the Phalcon airborne early warning and surveillance systems on the grounds that the technology that Israel hoped to sell to China undermined U.S. security interests in the Asia-Pacific, especially across the Taiwan straits. In July 2000, and in the wake of months of U.S. threats and intimidation, Prime Minister Ehud Barak announced the deal’s cancellation. That the crisis escalated despite Clinton’s appreciation over progress in the peace process underlined the seriousness of U.S. concerns.
In December 2004, controversy over Sino-Israeli military ties again erupted when the Bush administration objected to the Israeli government’s decision to repair and upgrade the Harpy unmanned aerial vehicle that Israel had sold to China in the 1990s. This time, the Pentagon threatened to terminate or exclude Israel’s participation in the F-35 joint strike fighter program. Israeli media even spoke of a U.S. “boycott” of senior defense ministry officials who were dealing with China. In July 2005, Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz canceled his trip to the United States following U.S. demands for a written apology for Israel’s security exports to China.
Much of the criticism came not only from the U.S. mainstream but also from officials otherwise friendly toward Israel. Nearly a dozen U.S. official reports accused Israel of various improprieties, and most of them pertained to its dealings with China.
Perhaps the most devastating of these was the report of the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China, (popularly known as the Cox Report after House Policy Committee chairman Christopher Cox [Republican, Calif.]). The declassified portion explicitly identified Israel as one of the suppliers of high-tech weapons to China and charged that Israel “has provided both weapons and technology to the PRC [Peoples’ Republic of China], most notably to assist the PRC in developing its F-10 fighter and airborne early warning aircraft.””
Interesting comments from everyone. Hezbollah was not an entity until AFTER Israel invaded lebanon in 1978. You are conveniently forgetting that Israel invaded Lebanon up to the Litani river, allegedly over some obscure attack on them, but, in reality, because they wanted the water source. When the Marine barracks were bombed in 1983, the Americans withdrew, leaving Lebanon essentially at the mercy of Israel, who had already invaded again in 1982.
“The long occupation that followed Israel’s 1982 invasion had repercussions for Israel, since Hezbollah arose as a Shiite rebellion against the Israeli occupation. It may also have, unexpectly, pushed the PLO into entering into the peace negotiations that, from the 1990s, revived Palestinian national aspirations in the West Bank.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1982_Lebanon_War
I’m not a big fan of Wikipedia, but, in this instance, they do a decent job of reporting the facts.