He was so discreet that neither his wife nor his daughter knew how he made a living. He never appeared in the media or in any public event. That perfect stranger was called Isser Harel and was the founder and director of Mossad from 1952 to 1963.
Already in 1948 David Ben-Gurion, Israeli Prime Minister, placed him at the head of the Shin Bet, the counterintelligence agency. He was then a young Zionist who had stood out for his boldness and intelligence in the Haganá, the Jewish paramilitary organization. Four years later, he was appointed director of Mossad with full powers in terms of internal security and espionage abroad.
The most crucial moment of his career came in 1960 when a German prosecutor provided the Government of Ben-Gurion with information about the whereabouts of Adolf Eichmann, one of the heads of the Nazi death camp organization. Eichmann lived in Buenos Aires under the identity of Ricardo Klement with the protection of General Perón.
Ben-Gurion charged Mossad with the mission of capturing the senior SS official. To do this, Harel selected and indoctrinated a small group of men. They managed to find Eichmann and kidnapped him. After keeping him drugged in a safe place, they put him on a plane and drove him to Jerusalem. There he was tried and executed.
In his 11 years at the helm of Mossad, he achieved successes that made Israeli espionage a legend. For example, Harel obtained through a Polish journalist a copy of Kruschev’s speech at the party Congress in 1956. The Soviet leader had denounced the abuse and cult of Stalin’s personality, but the text of his address had been declared secret. Harel passed it to the CIA.
The Mossad chief was born in 1912 in Vitebsk (Belarus) in a well-off family. His father owned a vinegar factory, but his properties were confiscated after the 1917 Revolution. His parents had to emigrate to Latvia and there he spent his adolescence.
He adhered to the Zionist movements and, in the early 1930s, emigrated to Palestine, with a gun hidden in a loaf of bread. He met Ben-Gurion and joined the Jewish guerrilla. After the creation of the State of Israel, his rise from the hand of his protector was unstoppable.
Harel had to resign in 1963 because Mossad attempted against several German scientists working for the Egyptian Nasser regime in a rocket development program. The scandal that sparked the operation forced him to resign after a severe reprimand from Ben-Gurion.
After this episode, he created a Zionist party and obtained the act of deputy in the Kneset. In 1973, he retired from politics and lived discreetly until his death in 2003 at age 91. .