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The Ha-Mosad le-Modi'in u-le-Tafkidim Meyuchadim (Hebrew: המוסד למודיעין ולתפקידים מיוחדים, The Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations), or Mossad (The Institute) is Israel's intelligence agency, with headquarters in Tel Aviv. Their motto is Proverbs 11:14- "For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure."[1]


According to the official Israeli Secret Intelligence Service web site, the Mossad carries out operations in many fields including:[2]

  • Covert intelligence gathering beyond Israel’s borders.
  • Preventing the development and procurement of non-conventional weapons by hostile countries.
  • Preventing terrorist acts against Israeli targets abroad.
  • Developing and maintaining special diplomatic and other covert relations.
  • Bringing Jews home from countries where official Aliya agencies are not allowed to operate.
  • Producing strategic, political and operational intelligence.
  • Planning and carrying out special operations beyond Israel’s borders.


Mossad is based in Tel Aviv. Estimates for the number of staff is between 1,000 and 2,000. As it is a civilian service there are no military ranks, though most members of Mossad have served in the IDF. Applications can be completed online.[3] There are assumed to be 8 departments, each one having specific responsibilities. Some of the details about the agency are unknown. The largest department is the Collections department. It is responsible for espionage and intelligence gathering abroad. Political Actions and Liaison communicates with other foreign intelligence agencies. The Special Operations (METSADA) department performs the assassinations, the sabotage, and the paramilitary and psychological operations. The LAP (Lohamah Psichlogit) Department conducts psychological warfare, propaganda and deception operations. The Research department is responsible for producing intelligence reports from 15 different geographical areas. The Technology department develops surveillance and weaponry.[4]


Mossad was formed on 13 December 1949 by Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. It was founded based on the recommendation of Reuven Shiloah in order to create a central body to coordinate the activities of the three previous security organizations: the Army intelligence, the Foreign Office, and the General Security Service ("Shabak").


To: The Foreign Ministry

From: The Prime Minister

Upon my instructions, an institute is being established to co-ordinate state intelligence agencies (the Military Intelligence Department, the Foreign Ministry, the State Department, the General Security Agency, etc.) I have charged Reuben Shiloah, Foreign Ministry adviser for special projects, to organize and head the institute. Reuben Shiloah will report to me. He will act upon my instructions and will submit regular working reports to me. For administrative purposes, his office will be part of the foreign ministry. I have instructed R. Shiloah to submit a manpower and budget proposal for 1950-51 for approximately IL20,000, IL5,000 of which will be used for special operations, contingent on my prior authorization. You are hereby requested to add this sum to the foreign ministry budget for 1950-51.
D. Ben Gurion[5]

Initially it reported to the Foreign Ministry, but in 1951 it became part of the Prime Ministers office, thereby reporting directly to him.

Operation Susannah

Operation Susannah was a false flag operation conducted in 1954 by Israeli-backed terrorists in Egypt against American and British targets, designed to appear as though Egyptian Arabs had carried out the attacks. Israeli agents had infiltrated Egyptian society and recruited Egyptian-born Jews to carry out the operation. The U.S. Information Agency libraries in Alexandria and Cairo as well as a British-owned theater were bombed on July 14, 1954. No injuries or casualties occurred during the bombings, except to one of the bombers, when his bomb exploded prematurely. Egyptian authorities uncovered the operation, initially not realizing it was an Israeli operation. After the Israeli spy ring was broken up, trials followed. Two suspects were acquitted, while two culprits were hanged, and several others were sentenced to lengthy prison terms. One or two other operatives committed suicide.

Israeli defense minister Pinhas Lavon was forced to resign in 1955. Consequently, the aftermath of Operation Susannah is often called The Levon Affair.

The operation was named after the fiancé of one of the Israeli commanders, Shoshana, and was triggered when the distinctly American song Oh Susannah was played on an Israeli radio station.

On March 30, 2005 IDF, Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Moshe Ya’alon presented official citations to the three surviving agents and to representatives of those deceased, saying: "This is historic justice for those who were sent on a mission on behalf of the state and became the victims of a complex political affair."[6]

Eichmann's capture

Mossad is most famous for successfully tracking down and capturing Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. In 1960, Mossad learned that Eichmann was in Argentina. After tracking him down and watching him for some time, Mossad agents kidnapped him as he got off his bus.[7] He was then smuggled out of Argentina to Israel. Eichmann was tried, convicted, and hanged on June 1, 1962.

Lillehammer Affair

On July 21, 1973 in Lillehammer, Norway the Mossad conducted an assassination of an innocent Moroccan waiter they falsely believed to have been responsible for the Black September terrorist attacks. This was done in front of his pregnant wife.[8] The Israeli government has refused to claim responsibility for the murder, though they provided compensation to the victim's family.[9]

Trial in absentia

In 1991 the publication of a book entitled By Way of Deception by former Mossad operative Victor Ostrovsky created quite a stir in discussing some of the operations of the Israeli government and Mossad. Ostovsky told of the Israeli Cabinet’s use of trial in absentia for enemies of the Jewish people. While trial in absentia is not recognized in Anglo-American jurisprudence, it has been used in the Soviet Union and other countries formerly referred to as the Eastern bloc. The fifth amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the rights of the accused to face their accusers, this provision was waived however during the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal [10] in the case of Martin Bormann,[11] Hitler’s chief adjutant. Bormann was indicted, found guilty, and sentenced to death in absentia.

Ostrovsky describes how the government of Israel has assumed the responsibility for defending Jews worldwide against the enemies of the Jewish people. Ostrovsky declares the Israeli Cabinet will sit as a jury of sorts and hear cases, the Attorney General functioning as the prosecutor. A “public defender” of sorts is appointed to argue the Defendant’s case in absentia when an individual may be accused of committing crimes against the Jewish people. The most famous high-profile case is Adolf Eichmann, whose kidnapping from Argentina created an international controversy in 1963; a citizen of one country, had been kidnapped for committing crimes in another country, to stand trial in a third country, which did not exist at the time the crimes occurred.[12]

During the secret cabinet proceedings, evidence is presented by the prosecution, the appointed defense counsel makes a defense, and the Cabinet as whole votes upon guilt or innocence. A second vote then occurs on whether to dispatch Mossad to apprehend the individual to stand public trial in Israel, as was the case with Eichmann, or to pass the death sentence. If the death sentence is passed, then the Israeli Prime Minister excising sovereignty must sign a death warrant ordering Mossad to do the execution, as is alleged to be the cases with Gerald Bull and Robert Maxwell.

The contrast here with American law is (1) the President has sole power under law through issuance of a Presidential Finding to order assassinations, whereas in Israel it is a collective decision; (2) double jeopardy clause in cases where public trial is held; and (3) rights of the accused to face their accusers.


The following is a list of Mossad Directors:

  • Reuven Shiloah, 1951-1952
  • Isser Harel, 1952-1963
  • Meir Amit, 1963-1968
  • Zvi Zamir, 1968-1974
  • Yitzhak Hofi, 1974-1982
  • Nahum Admoni, 1982-1989
  • Shabtai Shavit, 1989-1996
  • Danny Yatom, 1996-1998
  • Ephraim Halevy, 1998-2002
  • Meir Dagan, 2002–Present

See also


  1. Mossad 2007
  2. Mossad 2007
  3. Online application form
  4. profile
  5. Ben Gurion's letter to the Foreign Office
  6. Cashman 2005
  7. Haggai Hitron, The monster is in handcuffs', Haaretz, January 16, 2007
  10. The Prosecution of International Crimes: Prospects and Pitfalls, Justice Louise Arbour, Presentation given at the Holocaust Memorial Lecturer, Washington University on 28 October 1998. Justice Arbour was appointed the Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda by the United Nations Security Council in 1996. Justice Arbour served during a leave-of-absence from her position as a Justice of the Ontario Court of Appeals.
  11. German Nazi Party of World War II, Bormann Retrieved from the Killeen Harker Heights Connections collection, 05/26/07.
  12. Simon Wiesenthal, The Murderers Among Us, Paris: Opera Mundi, 1967.