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Secret history: How the Mossad

became entangled in a political
assassination (
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In the 1960s, Israel's external security service found itself in a

compromising situation when it was asked to help carry out an
assassination by a secret ally, that later sent shockwaves through
the country's highest echelons and whose eects are still felt
Ronen Bergman, Shlomo Nakdimon
On a dark and rainy day in a forest near Paris, several people were digging
a deep pit, throwing in the body of a man who had been strangled to death
not long before. No one imagined that the ghost of the victim would
haunt the Mossad for many years to come.
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Ronen Bergman and Shlomo Nakdimon have re-opened the famously
mysterious "Bava Batra" case to expose the unbelievable story about a
kidnapping operation planned to take place at the palace of the King of
Morocco, which went south and ended in an assassination in France threatening to bring down the head of the Mossad and the prime minister
of Israel.
"I would ask you to hold a preliminary examination into the actions of the
Mossad with regards to 'Bava Batra'- a term I defined for you verbally."
This above note was written by the third prime minister of Israel, Levi
Eshkol, but it isn't in his handwriting. It was most likely written be his
secretary, to whom he dictated one of the most sensitive letters in his
stormy tenure as prime minister of Israel.

Letter written by Levi Eshkol.

"You must examine the documents concerning the case and interview the
people involved, whose names I gave you verbally. If during the
examination you see the need to interview more people - please inform me
verbally and I will make sure they are at your disposal. The people involved
have received instructions from me to make all of the aforementioned
documents available to you, as well as to provide you with all of the
information you require of them. You are requested to write your
conclusions by hand and make only one copy, which you will deliver to me.
With regards,
Levi Eshkol."

Levi Eshkol.
Photo by: Photo: David Rubinger
An added sentence appearing in the letter was written in a dierent
handwriting: "We've read the aforementioned instructions and have taken
it upon ourselves to follow them." Next to this sentence are the signatures
of former IDF chief of sta Yigael Yadin and the late MK Ze'ev Sherf. This
document shows the climax of one of the biggest dramas the Israeli
intelligence community has ever known - and, apparently, the most
serious clash between the Intelligence community and the state's
Despite the fact his name is not specifically mentioned in the document,
it's clear who is at the center of the secret team's investigation: Mossad
chief Meir Amit.

On February 23, 1966, the day on which Yadin and Sherf launched the
investigation they were instructed to conduct - Amit was at the height of
his power: He had reorganized the Mossad, created a harmonious and
cooperative relationship with Military Intelligence, and executed a series
of daring operations - most notably Operation Diamond, during which an
Iraqi fighter pilot defected to Israel with his advanced Soviet fighter jet,
MiG 21. When American experts received access to the aircraft they had
longed to get their hands on for so long, Amit and the organization he led
became far more valuable to them.

Meir Amit.
Photo by: Photo: David Rubinger
But it was another aair - which those few in the know referred to by the
code name "Bava Batra" that threatened to bring Amit down and drag
prime minister Levi Eshkol into the abyss with him. To save themselves,
the two launched a fierce battle, during which they also resurrected
another highly charged Mossad aair.
The complete story of the internal war that split the state's upper echelons
into two rival camps has never been told. Using secret documents from
the Mossad and the Prime Minister's Oce, and a series of interviews
conducted by the undersigned over the years, we can now sketch out
almost in full the "Bava Batra" aair.
It is an aair that started in the opulent palace of Hassan II, the King of
Morocco, carried onward to a summit meeting in Casablanca and ended in
an assassination in Paris - and then exploded in the halls of the Israeli
leadership in the form of a dark and determined battle, the likes of which
have not been seen since.

Chapter 1: The king and I

Israel, the early 1960s

The Mossad's main theater of operations was in Europe and its secret
headquarters on the continent located in Paris. This, of course, wasn't a
coincidence - France at the time was a great friend of Israel, and the two
countries had strong security ties. The French, who were mired deep in
Algerian mud and fighting Algeria's National Liberation Front - an
underground organization fighting against the French occupation in the
country - asked for the Mossad's help.
At first, the Mossad provided the French with information on the
underground organization. Later, Mossad agents also provided weapons sniper rifles, guns and explosives - for a series of assassinations carried
out by French intelligence against the underground's headquarters in
When this activity increased, a need arose to have a permanent route to
Egypt - then Israel's biggest enemy.
The Israeli intelligence community decided to launch a particularly
creative mission: Deputy Military Intelligence Chief Yuval Ne'eman
recruited two American Jewish pilots and provided them with substantial
capital. The two headed to Kuwait, where they proposed the government
to launch an airline that would fly from Kuwait across the Arab world.
The idea was welcomed with open arms, and since then the Israeli
intelligence began "operating" three weekly flights to Cairo. A decade later,
when this route was no longer needed, the full ownership of the airline
was sold to the Kuwaiti government. The airline is still in operation and
today it is known as Kuwait Airways, Kuwait's national airline.
Despite the fact the French had to give up on Algeria in 1962, they greatly
appreciated the Israeli aid. Paris became a safe and convenient meeting
point for the Mossad, even with sources who had no ocial ties with
"I was in favor of personal ties with the heads of the intelligence there,"
former Mossad chief Meir Amit told us before his passing. "I, the head of
the Mossad, would go there in person to meet with them and create an
alliance based on common interests."
The best pathway into Africa and Asia was at the time perceived to be
through Paris, and the Mossad had become one of the most active
intelligence services in these areas. The tradeos usually included Israeli
military aid and training for local intelligence services (and sometimes
ground-up construction). In return, the Mossad got approval to operate
almost entirely freely in those countries, and gather information on the
Arab countries and the activities of the Soviet bloc (information that was
shared with the United States). What was vital was the complete alliance
between the Mossad and its counterparts in Turkey, Iran and Ethiopia,
which became a stage for intelligence coordination between the four
regional powers.

But the Mossad had marked a more desirable intelligence target one that
was far harder to achieve: Morocco.
The reason is obvious: Morocco is an Arab country, which was in close
contact with Israel's main enemies. But Morocco was moderate and did
not share a threatening border with Israel, it was headed by a relatively
pro-Western king, Hassan II.
The intelligence relationship with Morocco began in 1960, when Hassan
was still crown prince. A year later, after he was crowned, Israel asked
Hassan to allow Morocco's Jews to emigrate. Muhammad Oufkir, who was
in charge of the secret services in Morocco, finalized the deal with Mossad
agents: $250 for every Jew who would emigrate. Funds for 80,000 Jews
were transferred in bags of a quarter of a million dollars to a secret
Next, the Moroccans asked the Mossad to set up a VIP protection unit for
them. Mossad men David Shomron and Yoske Shiner, David Ben-Gurion's
body guards, were sent to complete the task. "The king was afraid he would
be killed," Shomron told us in the past. "He had enough enemies ... he was
not safe in his life. Oufkir told me, 'We need to secure the king.' During
the course, Shiner was talking to me in Hebrew with an English accent and
I translated into French."
During these contacts it became clear that Oufkir and his faithful
lieutenant Ahmad Dalimi were concerned not only for the king's life - but
also for his rule. In particular, they were concerned about various attempts
by Egypt and Algeria to undermine Hassan II. The Egyptians and Algerians
had helped elements in the opposition, and the Moroccan embassies in
these countries suered repeated burglaries.

Morocco's King Hassan II

Photo by: center
Israel restructured the Moroccan intelligence service, equipped Moroccan
ships with electronic equipment to detect infiltrations by sea and provided
training to prevent the break-ins at the embassies. In return, Israel
received the right to establish a permanent station in the capital - Rabat.
This was the most important achievement.

When a border dispute between Morocco and Algeria broke out, Amit flew
- with a fake passport - to meet the king. The late journalist Samuel Segev
wrote in his book, "The Moroccan Connection", that the meeting took
place after midnight, in a tent near the royal residence in Marrakech.
"We can help and we want to help," Amit told the king.
The proposal was accepted. Israel gave Morocco intelligence information,
trained pilots and supplied numerous weapons to the local army. In
exchange, Israel received access to Egyptian prisoners who had been
helping the Algerians and had been captured, and the option of training
against Soviet aircraft and tanks, which were also used by Israel's hostile
The height of the cooperation came in September 1965.
At that time, an Arab summit was convened in Casablanca, which
discussed the establishment of joint common Arab command in future
wars with Israel. King Hassan, who had very limited trust in his guests,
the leaders of the Arab world, allowed the Mossad to closely monitor the
Members of the "Tziporim" (birds) unit - led by Zvi Malkin and Rafi Eitan
went to Casablanca, and Moroccans sealed o for them, under heavy
guard, the mezzanine level of the hotel. On the day before the conference,
King Hassan ordered the Mossad to abandon the site, for fear of
encountering Arab guests. "But immediately after the conference they
gave us all the necessary information and did not keep anything from us,"
Rafi Eitan said.
This information was of great importance: It oered a glimpse into the
mindset of Israel's biggest enemies. At the same meeting, it later emerged,
commanders of the Arab armies reported that their forces were not
prepared for a new war against Israel. This information was one of the
elements that led to the surprise attack in June 1967 - and the
overwhelming Israeli victory in the Six-Day War.
One of the accounts relaying the "Bava Batra" aair states that "this
sensational material was one of the highlights of the achievements of
Israeli intelligence since its foundation."
But in the intelligence world there are no free gifts, and soon after it
became clear that the Moroccans wanted the debt for the information
repaid as soon as possible. The target was none other than the king's
sworn enemy: opposition leader Mehdi Ben Barka.
In Israeli intelligence codes, he is usually denoted by the letters "BB".
Hence the nickname given by Levi Eshkol, who liked to quote religious
sources: "Bava Batra" - the Talmudic tractate on legal responsibilities.
Given the damage that this aair was about to cause - it was the perfect

Chapter 2: Kill Mehdi

Mehdi Ben Barka was an influential leader in Morocco and the Arab world.
As a leftist, he backed the revolution and the fight against colonialism, and
was one of the fiercest opponents of King Hassan II. At the beginning of
the 60s, he was exiled from Morocco, and later sentenced to death in
absentia. After his exile, Oufkir and Dalimi tried to locate him, but Ben
Barka was careful to conceal his location, moving from place to place using
pseudonyms. Oufkir and Dalimi decided to contact Morocco's new friend,
Israel, and ask it to help locate the king's enemy.
"The request to help them get rid of the object, for them, sounded natural,"
then-Mossad chief Meir Amit later recalled in an interview with us. "You
have to remember their value system is completely dierent from ours. We
faced a dilemma: either help and get drawn in - or refuse and endanger the
national achievements of the highest order. The decision was clear and
unequivocal: to be true to our principles and not get involved in helping
directly, but to incorporate it into our joint activities with them ... And so
we acted responsibly and did not cross the line we had set for ourselves.
Everything was smooth and untainted."
The first task for the Mossad was to search for the man the Moroccans had
had trouble finding. From information that reached the Mossad it was
discovered that Ben Barka had a subscription to foreign magazines,
including the British Jewish weekly, "The Jewish Observer".
As he moved around the world, Ben Barka used a kiosk in Geneva as his
postal address, and occasionally used to visit the place to pick up the mail
that had accumulated there for him. The Mossad gave the kiosk address to
Dalimi. All that was remained for the Moroccan agents was to observe the
kiosk 24 hours a day, for two weeks, until their target appeared.
But for the Moroccans, Israel's debt had not yet been paid. On October 1,
1965, they requested Mossad agents in Paris to rent them a hiding place
and provide them with camouflage, makeup and fake passports. In
addition, they wanted Israel to follow their target for them and advise
them on how best to send Ben Barka to meet his maker.
According to the protocol of the meetings between Amit and Eshkol, only
on October 4 did Amit report to the prime minister about the Mossad's
involvement. To sweeten the pill of what he was about to tell Eshkol, Amit
began with good news, describing the valuable intelligence gathered by the
Mossad at the summit in Casablanca. "I want to show you the information
about the debates," Amit told Eshkol, and said that intelligence indicated
that at that time, the armies of the Arab countries were not ready for war
against Israel.
Then came the less good tidings: "What do they want?" Eshkol asked. Amit
continued: "A very simple thing: Deliver Mehdi Ben Barka. We found him
in Paris and King Hassan gave an order to kill him. They came to us and

said: 'We do not want you to do it, but help us.'

"Ultimately, we agreed not to give direct assistance to the killers, but to
help as far as is customary in the context of cooperation between
intelligence services."
Meir Amit, in a conversation with us, said: "The whole process was brought
to the prime minister. The prime minister was reticent - as someone
involved in the dealings of the Mossad he did not jump for joy - but he
definitely gave consent and did not reject the plan of action."
At this early stage, the Mossad chief considered the possibility of Israel
"ducking" on the issue, in other words, buying time in the hopes that the
problem might dissipate on its own. "It could have meant calling 'Bava
Batra' to tell him to run away."
In an interview with Amit, we asked: When you told Eshkol that you were
"ducking", what did you mean? "To dissolve the issue," said the former
Mossad chief, "but it was not under our control."
The Mossad provided five foreign passports, which could be used to carry
out the operation undetected. The aim was to provide assistance, but keep
a certain distance, so that even if the assassination failed it would be
impossible to locate the origins of the passports.
The prime minister was uneasy. "It does not smell right me," Eshkol said in
Amit: "Nor to me."
Eskhol: "We already agreed once that enough is enough."
Amit: "I will not take a single step without notifying you ... The problem is
how I get out of it, not how I got into it. The Moroccans cannot do it, it's
not simple ... I wanted you to know that ... On the other hand, there is no
doubt that we also cannot show that we are evading ..."
At the meeting, Amit repeats the fundamental statement that in his
opinion, if Israel is involved in any type of assassination, it should be done
by the Mossad and not foreign agents. "I told our guys clearly: Dont do it.
But if we do it, it should be Hebrew labor (i.e. perfect craftsmanship). A
half-hearted approach will not work. And then the conclusion reached was
not to do it."
Four days went by. On October 8, Amit told Eshkol: "So far, all is well. We
are able to hold on. We are 'ducking' the issue."
But the Moroccans had no intention of "ducking" the issue. On October
12, Dalimi asked Israel for fake car license plates and a poisonous solution.
Israel rejected the request for the license plates and suggested the use of

rented cars, for which it would provide fake documentation. Dalmi also
informed Israel that Oufkir had decided to postpone the operation until
the end of October, but did not specify an exact date.
On October 13, 1965, Dalimi left France to return to Morocco, and Amit
took this as a sign that the entire operation had been scrapped. "Thank
God, they gave up on it," he told Eshkol on the same day.
On October 25, Amit went to Rabat for a routine hearing, during which he
tried to continue "ducking the issue" and gently suggested that the
Moroccans postpone the assassination for a few months, "so their
preparations would be more perfect." But Dalimi surprised him with the
announcement that the operation "is already ongoing". Amit, facing a fait
accompli, realized that they could no longer dally - and had to enlist
Mossad aid for the operation.
What was the purpose of the operation for the Moroccans? It depends
who you ask. According to the research of Dr. Yigal Ben-Nun, a historian
who has for many years studied the relationship between Israel and
Morocco, the aim was to kidnap Ben Barka and then let him choose
between two options: Become education minister in the government of
King Hassan (i.e., recognition of the King's rule) or go on public trial for
treason. Other evidence shows the intent all along was to end his life.

Chapter 3: Body in the woods

Two days later, Dalimi set out on a flight to Paris to oversee the operation.
According to Dr. Ben-Nun's research, a Mossad agent was waiting for
Dalimi at the airport. They left the airport quickly and separately, and
agreed to meet later, for reasons of caution, at Fort-de-Saint-Cloud, where
they walked past cafes and talked for about ten minutes, while an
operational unit from Mossad guarded them.
Incidentally, a member of the squad was a cousin of Meir Amit - Ze'ev
Amit - who was killed later in the Yom Kippur War and was known as one
of two heroes of the song "We're both from the same village" by Naomi
Shemer. It was agreed at the meeting that an Israeli representative would,
during the time of the operation, wait next to the phone in the Mossad's
operations apartment in the event any problems arose.
The Moroccans, accompanied by mercenaries from French intelligence and
local police, were waiting for the arrival of Ben Barka in the City of Lights.
Indeed, on the morning of October 29, Ben Barka arrived from Geneva,
equipped with an Algerian diplomatic passport.
Ben Barka rushed to Brasserie Lipp, a known meeting place on the banks
of the Seine, where he was to dine with a French journalist. He did not
know that the journalist was bait set by the Moroccan intelligence to lure
him into a trap. According to Dr. Ben-Nun's research, this was the
Mossad's idea.

Sign outside of Brasserie Lipp where Barka was

kidnapped reads "Ben Barka was kidnapped here."
At a bend in the road before the restaurant, two French policeman - both
the mercenaries in the pay of Dalimi asked him to accompany them. A
stunned Ben Barka was quickly led to a rented apartment in a suburb
south of Paris, where Dalimi began to severely torture him.
On November 1, when Ben-Barka was still alive, Dalimi asked the Mossad
in Paris to provide by the end of November 2 a toxin and two more foreign
passports, shovels and "something to disguise the traces."
Previously, there were dierent versions of what happened then: some
argued that the station chief Rafi Eitan cabled Meir Amit a request for
instructions, but before a decision could be made on whether to provide or
refuse the poison, the issue became irrelevant. Others argued that the
Mossad complied with the request and the poison arrived in Paris, but it
was no longer necessary.
Either way, in an apartment in Paris, Dalimi and some of his aides
tortured Ben Barka, competing to see who would be more vicious. What
began with cigarette burns, became electric shocks and ended with
repeatedly forcing the victim into a tub of stagnant water, with Ben-Barka
on his knees.
Dalimi had not intended to kill Ben Barka, at least not at that stage, but
only gather information about the underground and force him to sign a
confession stating that he had intended to overthrow the king.
The late Mossad agent Eliezer Sharon replayed to us before his passing
what he had heard from the Moroccans after the fact: "They filled a
bathtub with water. Dalimi grabbed his head and wanted him to reveal
information. Every time Ben-Barka stuck his head out of the water, he
spat and cursed the king. They held his head in the water a little too long,
until he turned completely blue."
David Shomron, who was at that time the head of the Mossad delegation
in Morocco, later heard the details about what happened in that
apartment from Dalimi himself. "He died in the apartment. They were
torturing him in their own way: Dipping his head in a bathtub filled with

water, and checking his tailbone. When it (the tailbone) began to stien,
they took his head out. What happened is that they skipped the test, and
when they did check, it was too late."
When Ben Barka did not wake up after the last submersion, the
Moroccans panicked: What would they do with the body of a known Arab
leader in Paris? "When he died," recalled Eliezer Sharon, "the Moroccans
wet their pants."
As mentioned, the Mossad had rented a Paris apartment for its
operations. According to Ben-Nun, a number of people arrived at the Paris
apartment with two cars of bodyguards. The Mossad was not prepared for
the situation created by Ben Barka's death, and had to wait until they
made contact with more agents from other Mossad locations in Europe.
The group climbed the stairs to the apartment, went into the bathroom,
wrapped the body and put it in the trunk of the car.
Members of the group recalled that there was a forest in the immediate
vicinity used for family picnics, and decided to leave the body of Ben Barka
there. They drove towards the Saint-Germain forest. They reached it at
night, accompanied by guards, dug a deep hole in the ground and buried
the body, after which they scattered chemical powder all over the area,
which was designed to consume the body and is particularly active in
contact with water. Fortunately for the diggers, heavy rain fell almost
immediately, so there is probably not much left of Ben Barka.
Three years later a road was paved at that spot. Ben Barka, it is argued, is
buried under one of the trac islands there.
The Mossad provided Oufkir, Dalimi and other Moroccan agents forged
passports to leave the country. They feared that if their ocial passports
showed that they left France shortly after the disappearance, they would
face a storm from the opposition.
They were right.

Chapter 4: Isser's bomb

The French team who participated in the operation very quickly leaked to
those close to then-French president Charles de Gaulle that the Moroccan
security services had abducted and murdered the political leader in the
heart of Paris. The French president reacted furiously: He fired a large part
of the leaders of his country's intelligence services, dismantled the
external intelligence service (the SDECE, the Mossad counterpart) and
demanded that King Hassan hand over Oufkir and Dalimi. When the king
refused, de Gaulle severed diplomatic relations with Morocco.
A French police investigation led to indictments against 13 people,
including Oufkir, Dalimi and the journalist who lured Ben Barka to the
meeting. Most of the defendants did not appear for trial, finding refuge in

Morocco. The fallout from the operation has lasted to this day, 50 years
later, when there is still a dark shadow on France-Morocco relations.
And Israel? The few who knew of the Mossad's involvement in the aair at
first thought that the storm had passed them by. The Mossad had oered
"minimal technical assistance", according to a telegram sent to Amit. On
November 5, Amit told Eshkol: "The Moroccans killed Ben Barka. Israel
had no physical connection to the act itself".
The report Amit gave Eshkol was accurate, if one only looks at whose
hands actually killed Ben Barka. It is a partial description, or at least
evasive, when one considers the entire incident. However, at the same
time, Amit believed the aair was behind them.
In his summary he wrote: "The situation is satisfactory ... If mistakes were
made here and there, (they) were not due to inattention, but because there
was no way to predict what would happen. The people in the field, who
worked under the pressure of time and in the most dicult circumstances,
made some mistakes, and I take all the responsibility upon myself. Despite
the errors, we are still within the security boundaries we set ourselves ..."
On November 25, 1965 Amit told Eshkol: "Everything is fine."
Amit had forgotten that troubles did not always come from outside.
Sometimes they erupt internally.
This is where Isser Harel came in.
Harel, known as the "father of Israeli intelligence", was convinced by BenGurion to take on the role of intelligence consultant to prime minister
Eshkol. Many argue that at this stage Harel was bitter and looking for an
opportunity to show that his successor at the Mossad Meir Amit was
not worthy of stepping into his shoes. And what better opportunity could
he have than the well-publicized case in Europe?

Isser Harel.
Photo by: Photo: David Rubinger

When Harel heard of the Mossad involvement in the aair, he turned to

prime minister Eshkol. Before his death, Harel described the conversation
to us: "I told him (Eshkol): 'God sent me to protect you and you became
terribly entangled. Amit lied to you all along. You told him not to get
involved, and he was involved. Your situation is very grave. You had a
consultant on this issue and you didnt consult him. And it heightens your
own responsibility, and now you have to resign.'
"Eshkol really begged for his life," Harel recounted. "I told him, in my
opinion, you should appoint an inquiry commission and see who is
responsible for this failure, and the findings of the investigation will
decide whether you continue as prime minister. And as for Amit, you
should know that he did not tell you the truth. You had an advisor and did
not use him. Eshkol almost started crying ..."
Meir Amit, in a conversation with us, said: "As soon as he (Harel) took
oce, he began to undermine and to prove that his replacement was
inexperienced and irresponsible, and actually operated by foul means,
taking advantage of his past connection to the Mossad... When he
discovered the aair in question, he leapt on it like a treasure, and decided
that it was the way to achieve his desired goal: to eliminate his detested
The late Adi Yaa, the head of Eshkol's bureau, recounted to us in an
interview: "Harel turned to Eshkol and said: Either you fire the head of the
Mossad, or you must resign yourself. Eshkol replied that until the crime
was revealed, he would not get fire anyone. An error can be corrected."
Amit: "Blind hatred drove him (Harel), and he knew no boundaries. In fact
he was the one who leaked the grave version out, and spoke of it
indiscriminately to anyone who crossed his path. And all this in order to
avenge even Eshkol, who did not agree to heed his advice."
On the one hand, Isser Harel; on the other, Amit and Eshkol. The fire
began to spread in the corridors of the government, the big secret was
whispered by word of mouth, and soon it developed into a massive
internal conflict, the likes of which had not been seen since the Lavon
Harel demanded and received from Eshkol the documents on the "Bava
Batra" aair, and sat down to write a serious report about it. In a letter
attached to the document, Harel wrote to the prime minister: "As I
informed you already orally, the Mossad, and through it the state, were
engaged in various actions connected to a political assassination, in which
Israel not only had no interest, but should not have, I believe, from a
moral, public and international perspective, been involved in at all."

Regarding Amit he wrote that, "he has seriously exceeded his powers ... he
used bad judgment ... his report was partial, incomplete and misleading; to
this day he has not reported the role of the Mossad. In light of all this, I
expressed my opinion to you and to the justice minister, that it is
necessary to conduct an urgent and thorough investigation of the aair,
and immediately propose the establishment of a commission of inquiry."
The entanglement caused in this case was a very serious issue. In addition
to Israel's involvement in the matter, no consideration was given to the
danger of illegally aiding the Moroccans to carry out a criminal act on
French soil, which harmed the laws and sovereignty of France and caused
serious risk to its relations with Israel.
Years later, when we asked Meir Amit about the extreme accusations
hurled at him by Harel, he said: "No action was taken that endangered or
implicated Israel. The matter was leaked by Isser Harel, who behaved with
a lack of national responsibility out of personal interests of burning
jealousy. He was not driven by concern, but by unbridled vengeance."

Chapter 5: The wars of the Jews

The storm around the aair gave rise to a number of committees and
secret forums set up to investigate the chain of events.
One of them, in an unprecedented way, comprised a group of senior
ocials from Mapai (the Israeli Labor party's forerunner), who declared
themselves a committee and supported Harel. The late Mordechai
Nessyahu, a senior Mapai MK, recounted to us in the past: "Isser gave
them (the committee members) his conclusions. He concluded that Israel
should never have entered into it (the operation). It was an error of
judgment by Eshkol. The entanglement was the responsibility of Amit,
and, contrary to his promise, there were complications.
"The committee unanimously concluded that Amit had to go. We also
made the recommendation that Isser go to de Gaulle and tell him, lest the
aair was discovered and caused us trouble, but Israel drew its own
conclusions and those responsible are now gone."
Isser said: "The sooner the conclusions are made about Amit the better
we save Eshkol, as the prime minister is responsible for the field." The
upper echelon was with Isser the entire time, but did not persuade Eshkol
to dismiss Amit, as Amit threatened not to go quietly and to take Eshkol
down with him.
Several senior Mapai members turned to Golda Meir. "She knew
everything," recalled Nessyahu. "She agreed with the political and moral
severity of the matter, and that Amit would have to go ... we said Amit did
not interest us. We did not deal with civil servants, but with the political
responsibilities of the prime minister. No conclusions were drawn... we
told her, 'we have to draw conclusions with respect to Eshkol'."

Golda: "Who?"
Us: "You"
Her: "I will topple Eshkol, and take his place? I would rather throw myself
into the sea and will not do it."
But the rumors ran not only among members of Mapai. An external
committee was also established to examine the events in Paris. Its
members included former chief of sta Yigael Yadin and Ze'ev Scharf, who
would be appointed minister in the future.
The external committee determined that in several instances Eshkol was
not briefed by Amit or received late updates.
For example, the committee wrote: "The meeting with Albert (Dalimi's
nickname) on October 25 (in Morocco). At this meeting Albert announced
that he had his own process (the operation to abduct and eliminate Ben
Barka) that should yield results by the end of the month. At this stage, he
only needed technical support. Shah (Rafi Eitan's nickname) also asked for
these measures and was promised them. When we asked the head of the
Mossad about this promise, that had not received prior approval, he
explained that he acted according to standard procedure. Incidentally,
these measures were not used and were returned. There is no record that
the prime minister received a report about this meeting."
However, the external committee determined that Eshkol had actually
approved Mossad's involvement in the aair, and that the actions of the
two were fundamentally correct, and there was certainly no reason to oust
the head of the Mossad or the prime minister.
Harel did not like these conclusions. "When I read the conclusions of the
committee," he said during a conversation we had, "I told Eshkol: 'Do you
not know that Amit is deceiving you and you have to quit?' However, I also
told Eshkol: 'You have a way out. Say that you will set up a commission of
inquiry. Without it you will have to resign.'"
From the perspective of Harel - a virtuous person in Israel's history - it
was a serious incident, which must not be ignored. He launched an all-out
war, in which he implied that "the echoes of the aair will come to the
attention of the public and the entire party (Mapai) will be tainted with
the shame."
A senior operational agent in Military Intelligence, who was never
interviewed by the media, recalled that the threat to Eshkol's rule was so
great at the time, that a very senior IDF ocer entered Amit's oce at the
Mossad headquarters, laid a gun on his desk and said that Amit should
"end the aair in a manner expected of an ocer." Amit, according to this
story, "did not get the hint" and returned the gun to its owner. A senior
operations ocer said that he had heard the story from the ocer who

laid the gun on the table and that he believed him, but was not actually
witness to this terrible moment. We found no additional references to this
particular story.
Either way, it is clear that these were hard times for the head of the
Mossad, who he found himself up to his neck in the assassination and
subsequent eorts to cover it up. When we asked him, Amit, who used to
elaborate greatly about his feelings, summed it up thusly: "I felt pressured
and frustrated."

Chapter 6: Returning fire

At a certain point, when Harel's harsh attacks did not subside, Eshkol and
Amit decided to fight back in similar fashion using a secret aair that
could cast a shadow on Harel. Amit recalled that his close associates told
him: "He (Harel) will not drop the subject of his own accord ... unless it is
hinted to him that in his past there is enough material to undermine his
claim that he is 'the moral guardian' of the Mossad."
And there was "enough material". They were referring to a case, first
disclosed by Yedioth Ahronoth in 2006, which can be summed up as
follows: In 1954, a single joint envoy for the Mossad and the Shin Bet
security service set out to France. The goal was to kidnap an IDF ocer
suspected of trying to sell secret documents in France and return him to
Israel for a trial. Somehow, the kidnapped man died en route to Israel,
and, on Harel's orders, his body was dumped at sea. Harel also gave the
order to bury the documentation of the aair and to never discuss the
matter again.
But there was one man who whispered the details of the aair into Amit's
ear, when he replaced Harel. When Harel's pressure on Amit to resign
grew, Amit recalled that he too had a card up his sleeve.
Amit demanded the file on the kidnapping and passed it to the person
acting on behalf of Eshkol in the aair. That person summoned Harel for a
"What do you think would happen if the echoes of this aair caught the
attention of the public?" the man asked Harel. "Isser, do you not think that
such a serious matter certainly requires a thorough examination and
intense investigation? Of course we will keep the story quiet, but we are
not the only ones who know it, and it's truly outrageous, the things that
come to the attention of journalists these days."
Harel angrily told the man, and until his death maintained, that this was
an error he regretted.
"I was the one who demanded a thorough investigation at the time," Harel
told man, and repeated this in a conversation with us, 30 years later. On
the other hand, Harel understood all too well what would happen to him

and his reputation if he continued to pursue his interest in Ben Barka.

Shortly afterwards, he resigned as intelligence advisor to the prime
Isser Harel has a completely dierent version of the circumstances of his
resignation, and claimed that it was in response to the conclusions of the
committee of inquiry on the Ben Barka aair.
"They agreed that I was right," he said. "They told me Amit must be
removed, but he will not go without Eshkol. And Eshkol could not be fired,
because that would be a victory for Ben-Gurion. I rejected this - and I
Meir Amit is unconvinced: "Harel did not resign for reasons of conscience
over the incident in question," he told us, "but because it was implied that
if he continued to stir the pot, there was a serious risk for himself, as he
had been involved in questionable incidents, and his 'righteousness' would
be destroyed ... He resigned when we put the file on the murder of Jews on
the table."
Military censorship imposed a media blackout on the Ben Barka aair, and
in December 1966, the editor of the pornographic magazine "Bull" was
arrested and imprisoned for trying to publish the little he knew about the
aair. But in France - despite the fact that books have been written,
movies made and documents revealed about the aair - it is repeatedly
revisited every few years; a wound that cannot heal.
In 1973, Oufkir was shot dead with one bullet, either by suicide or
murder, after being exposed as part of a conspiracy against the king.
According to one version of events, he died in a gunfight that broke out
between him and Dalimi. The latter was that he was killed in 1982 in a car
accident, which, according to assessments, had been staged.
French intelligence suspected at the time that Israel was involved in the
case, but had no conclusive evidence and made no great eorts to find it
due to its support for Israel. But when the IDF launched its surprise attack
on Israel's neighbors in June 1967, de Gaulle responded sharply and
ordered an absolute arms embargo.
In an extreme speech he delivered in November of that year to the French
parliament, de Gaulle said the Jews were at all times an elite people, sure
of themselves and dominating. Two days later, he ordered the expulsion
of Mossad's representatives in France and the closure of the organization's
It was the first time that the Mossad had been thrown out because of an
assassination from the French capital - and it was not the last.