SPIES IN THE PROMISED LAND: Iser Harel and the Israeli Secret Service by Michael Bar-Zohar

SPIES IN THE PROMISED LAND: Iser Harel and the Israeli Secret Service

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Iser Harel began his intelligence career by helping thwart British efforts to destroy the Haganah during World War II. This makes a good story, and so does the rest of his work, including bureaucratic infights; Bar-Zohar recounts them as a partisan of Harel and Ben-Gurion and a relatively rightwing Israeli, though like his heroes he rejects the Stern Gang and the Irgun whom Harel cracked down on after independence. The book perhaps makes too much fuss over the intelligence that the Arab Legion was about to attack in 1948, but some of the other high points are really high, e.g., Bar-Zohar says the CIA was rapidly boosting Nasser at first, thus making war with Egypt ""almost inevitable"" in 1956, the British having regrettably departed. Other tales include underground Israeli work in Iraq and other Arab countries; the government's battle against ultra-religious terrorists; the Lavon affair; the case of Ulrich Schnefft, an ex-S.S. member parading as a Jew; the Israeli warning of a plot to kill de Gaulle; and the case of the Israeli child kidnapped and sequestered by fanatic Orthodox Jews. All this pales the straight spy stuff -- highplaced traitors, Russian and Arab agents, Israeli spies abroad. The ""stubborn, tough little"" Harel resigned in 1963 over quarrels about IsraeliGerman relations and the import of Egyptian rockets. If you discount the author's egregious political biases, this is an entertaining and informative story. Bar-Zohar is well-known as the author of Ben Gurion (1968), Embassies in Crisis (1971), and other books.

Pub Date: May 18th, 1972
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin