Richard Melson

January 2006


Ha-Mossad le-Modi'in ule-Tafkidim Meyuhadim "Institute for Intelligence and Special Assignments") is an Israeli intelligence agency, commonly referred to as Mossad.

It is responsible for intelligence collection, counter-terrorism, and covert action, including paramilitary activities.


Mossad is one of the world's best-known and most highly regarded intelligence agencies. It is known for its efficiency, and many believe it has made a large contribution to the stability and security of Israel.

Mossad was formed in December 1949 as the "Central Institute for Coordination", at the recommendation of Reuven Shiloah to Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. Shiloah wanted a central body to coordinate and improve cooperation between the existing security services — the army's intelligence department (AMAN), the General Security Service (GSS or "Shabak") and the foreign office's "political department". In March 1951, it was reorganized and made a part of the prime minister's office, reporting directly to the prime minister. Its current staff is estimated at approximately 1,200.

Mossad is a civilian service, and does not use military ranks, although most of its staff have served in the Israeli Defense Force as part of Israel's compulsory draft system, and many of them are officers.

Mossad's original motto: Betahbulot Ta'ase Lekha Milkhama "For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety." - Proverbs XXIV, 6) was changed recently as part of the Mossad's public 'coming out' to another Proverbs passage: Be-ein Tahbulot Yipol Am; Uteshua Berov Yoetz   "Where no counsel is, the people fall, but in the multitude of counselors there is safety." - Proverbs XI, 14)

Its many successes in serving Israel's security interests have earned Mossad a reputation for being extremely effective as an intelligence agency. Controversy exists over cases where it has employed the tactics of kidnapping and assassination. It has also been at the forefront of several publicly embarrassing failures.

In the past several decades it is widely known that the Indian Research and Analysis Wing ("RAW") and Israeli Mossad have cultivated a deep friendship and fruitful bond of collaboration against Islamic Fundamentalism in the region.


Mossad is headquartered in Tel Aviv and has eight departments:

Famous Mossad operations

Famous Mossad debacles

In 1973, Ahmed Bouchiki, an innocent Arab waiter in Lillehammer, Norway, was killed. He had been mistaken for Ali Hassan Salameh, one of the leaders of Black September, the Palestinian group responsible for the Munich Massacre, who had been given shelter in Norway. The Mossad agents had used fake Canadian passports, which angered the Canadian government.

In 1981, fake British passports were discovered in a grocery bag in London, leading to a diplomatic row with Israel over Mossad involvement in an attempt to infiltrate China.

In 1997, two Mossad agents were caught in Jordan, which has signed a peace treaty with Israel, on a mission to assassinate Sheikh Khaled Mashal, a leader of Hamas, by injecting him with poison. Again, they were using fake Canadian passports. This led to a diplomatic row with Canada and Jordan, and Israel was forced to provide the poison antidote and release around 70 Palestinian prisoners, in particular the Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin — who played a prominent role in encouraging attacks on Israeli civilians (and soldiers) during the Al-Aqsa intifada — in exchange for the Mossad agents, who would otherwise have faced the death penalty for attempted murder.

In July 2004, New Zealand imposed diplomatic sanctions on Israel over an incident in which two Israelis, Uriel Kelman and Eli Cara, who were allegedly working for Mossad, attempted to obtain New Zealand passports fraudulently. [1] Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom later apologized to New Zealand for their actions. New Zealand cancelled several other passports believed to have been obtained by Israeli agents. [2]

Directors of Mossad

  • Reuven Shiloah, 1951-1952
  • Isser Harel, 1952-1963
  • Meir Amit, 1963-1968

Zvi Zamir, 1968-1974

Yitzhak Hofi, 1974-1982

Nahum Admoni, 1982-1990

Shabtai Shavit, 1990-1996

Danny Yatom, 1996-1998

Ephraim Halevy, 1998-2002

Meir Dagan, 2002-Present


Thirty-five years ago, in September 1968, when the Research and Analysis Wing was founded with Rameshwar Nath Kao at its helm, then prime minister Indira Gandhi asked him to cultivate Israel's Mossad. She believed relations between the two intelligence agencies was necessary to monitor developments that could threaten India and Israel.

The efficient spymaster he was, Kao established a clandestine relationship with Mossad. In the 1950s, New Delhi had permitted Tel Aviv to establish a consulate in Mumbai. But full-fledged diplomatic relations with Israel were discouraged because India supported the Palestinian cause; having an Israeli embassy in New Delhi, various governments believed, would rupture its relations with the Arab world.

This was where the RAW-Mossad liaison came in. Among the threats the two external intelligence agencies identified were the military relationship between Pakistan and China and North Korea, especially after then Pakistan foreign minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto visited Pyongyang in 1971 to establish a military relationship with North Korea.

Again, Israel was worried by reports that Pakistani army officers were training Libyans and Iranians to handle Chinese and North Korean military equipment.

RAW-Mossad relations were a secret till Morarji Desai became prime minister in 1977. RAW officials had alerted him about the Zia-ul Haq regime's plans to acquire nuclear capability. While French assistance to Pakistan for a plutonium reprocessing plant was well known, the uranium enrichment plant at Kahuta was a secret. After the French stopped helping Islamabad under pressure from the Carter administration, Pakistan was determined to keep the Kahuta plant a secret. Islamabad did not want Washington to prevent its commissioning.

RAW agents were shocked when Desai called Zia and told the Pakistani military dictator: 'General, I know what you are up to in Kahuta. RAW has got me all the details.' The prime minister's indiscretion threatened to expose RAW sources.

The unfortunate revelation came about the same time that General Moshe Dayan, hero of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, was secretly visiting Kathmandu for a meeting with Indian representatives. Islamabad believed Dayan's visit was connected with a joint operation by Indian and Israeli intelligence agencies to end Pakistan's nuclear programme.

Apprehensive about an Indo-Israeli air strike on Kahuta, surface-to-air missiles were mounted around the uranium enrichment plant. These fears grew after the Israeli bombardment of Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.

Zia decided Islamabad needed to reassure Israel that it had nothing to fear from Pakistan's nuclear plans. Intermediaries -- Americans close to Israel -- established the initial contacts between Islamabad and Tel Aviv. Israel was confidant the US would not allow Pakistan's nuclear capability to threaten Israel. That is why Israeli experts do not mention the threat from Pakistan when they refer to the need for pre-emptive strikes against Iraq, Iran and Libya's nuclear schemes.

By the early 1980s, the US had discovered Pakistan's Kahuta project. By then northwest Pakistan was the staging ground for mujahideen attacks against Soviet troops in Afghanistan and Zia no longer feared US objections to his nuclear agenda. But Pakistani concerns over Israel persisted, hence Zia decided to establish a clandestine relationship between Inter-Services Intelligence and Mossad via officers of the two services posted at their embassies in Washington, DC.

The ISI knew Mossad would be interested in information about the Libyan, Syrian, Jordanian and Saudi Arabian military. Pakistani army officers were often posted on deputation in the Arab world -- in these very countries -- and had access to valuable information, which the ISI offered Mossad.

When young Israeli tourists began visiting the Kashmir valley in the early nineties Pakistan suspected they were Israeli army officers in disguise to help Indian security forces with counter-terrorism operations. The ISI propaganda inspired a series of terrorist attacks on the unsuspecting Israeli tourists. One was slain, another kidnapped.

The Kashmiri Muslim Diaspora in the US feared the attacks would alienate the influential Jewish community who, they felt, could lobby the US government and turn it against Kashmiri organisations clamouring for independence. Soon after, presumably caving into pressure, the terrorists released the kidnapped Israeli. During negotiations for his release, Israeli government officials, including senior intelligence operatives, arrived in Delhi.

The ensuing interaction with Indian officials led to India establishing embassy-level relations with Israel in 1992. The decision was taken by a Congress prime minister -- P V Narasimha Rao -- whose government also began pressing the American Jewish lobby for support in getting the US to declare Pakistan a sponsor of terrorism. The lobbying bore some results.

The US State Department put Pakistan on a 'watch-list' for six months in 1993. The Clinton administration 'persuaded' then Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif to dismiss Lieutenant General Javed Nasir, then director general of the ISI. The Americans were livid that the ISI refused to play ball with the CIA who wanted to buy unused Stinger missiles from the Afghan mujahideen, then in power in Kabul.

After she returned to power towards the end of 1993, Benazir Bhutto intensified the ISI's liaison with Mossad. She too began to cultivate the American Jewish lobby. Benazir is said to have a secret meeting in New York with a senior Israeli emissary, who flew to the US during her visit to Washington, DC in 1995 for talks with Clinton.

From his days as Bhutto's director general of military operations, Pervez Musharraf has been a keen advocate of Pakistan establishing diplomatic relations with the state of Israel.

The new defence relationship between India and Israel -- where the Jewish State has become the second-biggest seller of weapons to India, after Russia -- bother Musharraf no end. Like another military dictator before him, the Pakistan president is also wary that the fear of terrorists gaining control over Islamabad's nuclear arsenal could lead to an Israel-led pre-emptive strike against his country.

Musharraf is the first Pakistani leader to speak publicly about diplomatic relations with Israel. His pragmatic corps commanders share his view that India's defence relationship with Israel need to be countered and are unlikely to oppose such a move. But the generals are wary of the backlash from the streets. Recognising Israel and establishing an Israeli embassy in Islamabad would be unacceptable to the increasingly powerful mullahs who see the United States, Israel and India as enemies of Pakistan and Islam.

The Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks

ha-Mossad le-Modiin ule-Tafkidim Meyuhadim

Mossad [Hebrew for "institution"] has responsibility for human intelligence collection, covert action, and counterterrorism. Its focus is on Arab nations and organizations throughout the world. Mossad also is responsible for the clandestine movement of Jewish refugees out of Syria, Iran, and Ethiopia. Mossad agents are active in the former communist countries, in the West, and at the UN.

Mossad is headquartered in Tel Aviv. The staff of Mossad was estimated during the late 1980s to number between 1,500 to 2,000 personnel, with more recent estimates placing the staff at an estimated 1,200 personnel. The identity of the director of Mossad was traditionally a state secret, or at least not widely publicized, but, in March 1996, the Government announced the appointment of Major General Danny Yatom as the replacement for Shabtai Shavit, who resigned in early 1996. Danny Yatom resigned on February 24, 1998, following the release of the Ciechanover Commission report which dealt with the failed attempt to assassinate Khalid Meshaal, a top Hamas political leader, and thus found faults with his performance as head of Mossad. Yatom was replace in early March 1998 by Efraim Halevy, then Israel's representative to the European Union. Halevy, as a Mossad agent, had previously worked behind the scenes to help negotiate the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan.

Formerly known as the Central Institute for Coordination and the Central Institute for Intelligence and Security, Mossad was formed on 01 April 1951. Mossad was established by then Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, who gave as Mossad's primary directive: "For our state which since its creation has been under siege by its enemies. Intelligence constitutes the first line of defence...we must learn well how to recognise what is going on around us."

Mossad has a total of eight departments, though some details of the internal organization of the agency remain obscure.

Israel's most celebrated spy, Eli Cohen, was recruited by Mossad during the 1960s to infiltrate the top echelons of the Syrian government. Cohen radioed information to Israel for two years before he was discovered and publicly hanged in Damascus Square. Another Mossad agent, Wolfgang Lotz, established himself in Cairo, became acquainted with high-ranking Egyptian military and police officers, and obtained information on missile sites and on German scientists working on the Egyptian rocket program. In 1962 and 1963, in a successful effort to intimidate the Germans, several key scientists in that program were targets of assassination attempts. Mossad also succeeded in seizing eight missile boats under construction for Israel in France, but which had been embargoed by French president Charles de Gaulle in December 1968.

In 1960, Mossad carried out one of its most celebrated operations, the kidnapping of Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann from Argentina. Another kidnapping, in 1986, brought to Israel for prosecution the nuclear technician, Mordechai Vanunu, who had revealed details of the Israeli nuclear weapons program to a London newspaper. During the 1970s, Mossad assassinated several Arabs connected with the Black September terrorist group. Mossad inflicted a severe blow on the PLO in April 1988, when an assassination team invaded a well-guarded residence in Tunis to murder Arafat's deputy, Abu Jihad, considered to be the principal PLO planner of military and terrorist operations against Israel. Gerald Bull, a Canadian scientist who developed the famed "Super Gun" for Iraq was killed by the Mossad at his Brussels apartment in March 1990, effectively halting the development of the Supergun project.

Egyptian security services reported the discovery of a total of seven Israeli espionage networks during 1996, which is a significant increase compared to the 20 similar networks discovered in the previous 15 years.

And Mossad's record has also been blemished by a few embarrasing failures. In Lillehammer, Norway, on 07 January 1974, Mossad agents mistakenly killed Ahmad Boushiki, an Algerian waiter carrying a Moroccan passport, whom they mistook for PLO security head Ali Ahmad Salameh, believed to have masterminded the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics [Salameh was killed in a 1979 car-bomb explosion in Lebanon]. Following the attack, the Mossad agents were arrested and tried before a Norwegian court. Five Israeli agents were convicted and served short jail sentences, though Israel denied responsibility for the murder. In February 1996, the Israeli government agreed to compensate the family of Ahmad Boushiki.

On 15 November 1995, Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin was assassinated by Yigal Amir, an Israeli citizen. Following the controversy over the failure of intelligence to protect Rabin, and the embarrassment over the mistaken assassination of a Swedish national, the Director Geneneral of Mossad, known only as 'S', was forced into retirement. On 24 March 1996, Prime Minister Shimon Peres appointed Major General Danny Yatom as the new Director General of Mossad, the first Director of Mossad to ever be publically identified.

On 24 September 1997, Mossad operatives attempted to assassinate Khalid Meshaal, a top political leader of the Palestinian group Hamas. The assassins entered Jordan on fake Canadian, and injected Meshaal with a poison. Jordan was able to wring a number of concessions out of Israel in the aftermath of the fiasco, including the release of the founder of Hamas, Shaykh Ahmad Yasin, from an Israeli jail.

Ephraim Halevy, a nephew of the late Sir Isaiah Berlin [who helped to negotiate a peace deal with Jordan], became the new head of Mossad after two bungled operations led to the arrests of agents in Switzerland and Jordan. Mossad scaled down overseas assassinations after the bungled operations in the late 1990s.

But by 2002 Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided to remove Halevy, after the two clashed repeatedly about what strategy to adopt against Palestinian violence.

In October 2002 General Meir Dagan, who served in the Israeli Army with Ariel Sharon, and assisted him during his election campaign, was confirmed as head of Mossad. Dagan led an undercover commando unit that tracked and killed Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. Sharon wanted Mossad to go back to the undercover and special operations for which it was renowned.

The Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks
[ha-Mossad le-Modiin ule-Tafkidim Meyuhadim]

Mossad [Hebrew for "institute"] has responsibility for human intelligence collection, covert action, and counterterrorism. Its focus is on Arab nations and organizations throughout the world. Mossad also is responsible for the clandestine movement of Jewish refugees out of Syria, Iran, and Ethiopia. Mossad agents are active in the former communist countries, in the West, and at the UN.

Mossad is headquartered in Tel Aviv. The staff of Mossad was estimated during the late 1980s to number between 1,500 to 2,000 personnel, with more recent estimates placing the staff at an estimated 1,200 personnel. The identity of the director of Mossad was traditionally a state secret, or at least not widely publicized, until in March 1996 the Government announced the appointment of Major General Danny Yatom as the replacement for Mossad Director Shabtai Shavit, who resigned in early 1996. Danny Yatom (1996-1998) was succeeded by Ephraim Halevy (1998-2002).

In September 2002, Meir Dagan was designated the new Mossad director.

Mossad has a total of eight departments,

though some details of the internal organization of the agency remain obscure.

As stated above:

Israeli hit teams, which consist of units or squadrons of the Kidon, a sub-unit for Mossad's highly secret Metsada department, would stage the operations, former Israeli intelligence sources said. Kidon is a Hebrew word meaning "bayonet," one former Israeli intelligence source said.

Most missions aimed at killing terrorists would be undertaken by the "Metsada", a highly secret department within the Mossad which operates combatants.

Within the Metsada is the "Kidon" (a translation of the word "bayonet"): a specially trained elite assassination unit.

Each hit team is said to comprise four members. One acts as the "target locator" and is tasked to keep tabs on the victim’s movements. Another is the "transporter", charged with getting the team safely away from the killing area. The remaining two will be the "shooters", or those that will execute the "hit".

Such teams were encouraged to be imaginative and strike in creative ways, thus ensuring that terrorists knew they had been "touched". If, for example, the assassinations took place when the terrorist leaders were inside their own security cordons, it sent out a clear message that they should never feel safe.

Mossad & Metsada

January 2006