In this harrowing account of Israel’s special forces, Bar-Zohar and Mishal (Mossad: The Greatest Missions of the Israeli Secret Service, 2012, etc.) delve into the complexity of their nation’s covert missions, especially during its violent formative years.
The book opens with Operation Entebbe, a hair-raising attempt to rescue Israeli hostages from a compound in Uganda in 1976. When terrorists stole a passenger jet, they flew to the African nation and broadcast their demands. The authors, whose previous book examined the exploits of Mossad, describe the Israelis’ secret plot to infiltrate the fortress, kill the guards, and free the civilian prisoners. This story sets the tone for the book, and every chapter reads the same: the authors describe a deadly situation, such as Egyptian armament on the Sinai border or a midair hijacking by terrorist group Black September. Resourceful Israeli officers huddle, concoct a plan, and dispatch their troops. Bar-Zohar and Mishal re-create certain scenes with rich dialogue and description, and many of these moments are rife with suspense. The stories are astonishing, especially the authors’ descriptions of the military firing precision missiles into populated areas, killing Hamas fighters and only a handful of civilian bystanders. Each anecdote showcases Israeli cunning, like a greatest-hits album for military tactics. Yet despite the cleverness and courage of its heroes, the book lacks a moral prerogative, celebrating violence without explaining the motivations of the nation’s foes. The book is illuminating but only to show how desperate and vicious the Arab-Israeli conflict has been. The triumphant tales are also coldhearted and clinical. Israel did what it had to do, the authors argue; this kind of bloodshed is the only way to survive.
A well-researched and tensely written yet mechanical history that lacks the emotional depth of more complex Israeli sagas.