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Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Mossad loses its father

Meir Amit z"l (of blessed memory), the man who built the Mossad into the finest intelligence agency in the world, passed away on Friday. He was 88. The Wall Street Journal discusses some of his accomplishments.
On June 5, 1967, Israel's air force destroyed Egypt's air force on the ground in a series of morning bombing raids that represented as much an intelligence victory as a military one. It was the culmination of years of careful work penetrating the Egyptian armed forces. The results were decisive and swift.

"Don't call it the Six-day War, call it the three-hour war," Mr. Amit, the Mossad's chief from 1963-1968, told a conference held to mark the 1967 war's 25th anniversary in Washington. "And I must take pride in the intelligence."

Mr. Amit, who died Friday at 88, is credited with reforming the Mossad into a more professional intelligence agency, one with ties to foreign services and more access to computers and other non-human intelligence sources. Yet he understood that preying on human weaknesses worked best.

In one spectacular operation in 1966, Mr. Amit engineered the defection of an Iraqi fighter pilot who landed his MIG-21 at an Israeli air base. The plane -- among the most modern of the U.S.S.R's fighters -- was immediately shared with the Central Intelligence Agency, helping to cement the bonds between the two nations' intelligence agencies.

The Iraqi pilot was inspired to defect by someone he took to be his American girlfriend but who was actually a Mossad agent.

Mr. Amit "pioneered the use of female agents, the 'honey trap,'" says Dan Raviv, author of "Every Spy a Prince," a history of Israeli espionage.
Read it all.

One of Meir Amit's passions in his later years was developing Israel's independent satellite capability. He started a company to do this by the mid-'80's and today Israel has both commercial and military satellites in space, largely because of the work that Meir Amit did. The original company is now a shareholder in a much larger, publicly traded (Tel Aviv Stock Exchange) company.

It was through that venture that I got to meet Meir Amit in person. A couple of visionary Americans invested in that venture in the 1980's, and they eventually came to me as clients through my old Matzav email list several years ago. I represented the clients at the shareholders' meetings and Meir Amit chaired the meetings.

Even in his 80's, Amit's mind was sharp. He was always a step ahead of the game. Much of his contribution to the State's establishment went to the grave with him - he was definitely not a man who bragged about his accomplishments.

Y'hi zichro baruch (may his memory be blessed).


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