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Israel Intelligence & Security: The Mossad

When the State of Israel was declared, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, expressed his views on the necessity of creating intelligence agencies to operate on behalf of the nascent state. On June 7, 1948, he held his first meeting on this matter with intelligence officials. On December 13, 1949, following detailed staff work, Ben-Gurion appointed foreign ministry special operations’ adviser and former Jewish Agency state department official, Reuben Shiloah, to establish and head the ‘Institute for Collating and Co-ordinating Intelligence Operations.’ This date is considered the date the Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations was established.

On March 2, 1951, as a result of the experience gained in running State intelligence agencies, particularly in overseas’ operations, Ben-Gurion ordered Reuben Shiloah to set up the ‘Directorate,’ within the Institute for Coordination, to take all overseas intelligence operations under its wing. The ‘Directorate’ was the initial incarnation of the main collection unit in the Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations.

In 1952, Reuben Shiloah retired and was replaced by General Security Agency chief Isser Harel. He served as Mossad Director until 1963. The two founders shaped the Mossad to address the reality and the needs of the State of Israel in its early years.

Over the years the Mossad expanded into many fields (the most prominent of which were):

  • Covert intelligence gathering beyond Israel’s borders.
  • Developing and maintaining special diplomatic and other covert relations.
  • Preventing the development and procurement of non-conventional weapons by hostile countries.
  • Preventing terrorist acts against Israeli targets abroad.
  • Bringing Jews home from countries where official Aliya agencies are not allowed to operate.
  • Producing strategic, political and operational intelligence.
  • Planning and carrying out special operations beyond Israel’s borders.

Some of the Mossad’s operations include:

  • Pursuing Nazi war criminals, culminating in the capture of Adolf Eichmann and bringing him to justice in Israel.
  • Locating and returning to his family Yossele Shumacher, a small boy who was kidnapped in Israel and spirited abroad.
  • Bringing home the Ethiopian Jews.

These are only a sample of the Mossad’s operations, which include collecting information in accordance with priority intelligence requirements, covert relations with other countries and intelligence agencies – making major contributions to the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan – redeeming MIA’s, technology and research.

The Mossad teamed up with venture capital firm Sequoia Capital in June 2017 to launch a new technological innovation fund named Libertad.  The project's aim is to take advantage of Israel's start-up atmosphere, and ensure the Mossad and IDF retain technological superiority over their enemies.  The Libertad fund's website describes it as seek[ing] to strengthen both start-up companies and the Mossad’s knowledge base, operating at the forefront of technological innovation.  Upon it's launch, Libertad's executives issued a call for proposals in the fields of energy, robotics, encryption, big data, and text analysis.  

The Mossad welcomed it's first recruit from the Ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jewish community in April 2018.  Many Haredim recieve exemptions from Israeli national military service, but some still choose to serve.  

Sources: The Mossad;
Herb Keinon. Israel's Mossad is looking for a few good startups, Jerusalem Post, (June 27, 2017);
First haredi man to serve in Israel’s Mossad agency, JNS, (April 26, 2018).