He was Harel was one of the founders of Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, and was its director from to He was also the first director of Shin Bet, the internal security agency. One of the tasks of Mossad in its first years was to track down leaders of the Third Reich responsible for the killing of six million Jews during World War II. A prime target was Adolf Eichmann, an aide to Hitler responsible for carrying out the logistics of what the Nazis called the ''final solution'' -- the mass killing of the European Jews. Harel related how Israeli agents tracked Eichmann to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he was living under the identity of Ricardo Klement, a businessman.
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Isser Harel, who has died aged 91, was the most famous Israeli spymaster; as the second boss of Mossad which was established in to gather intelligence from abroad and run special operations he turned it into one of the most effective and boldest intelligence services in the world. Harel personally commanded some of Mossad's most spectacular operations, notably the abduction from Argentina of Adolf Eichmann, the SS officer who presided over the execution of the "Final Solution" the extermination of European Jews , to stand trial in Israel for war crimes; "Operation Eichmann" became the best organised kidnapping by a secret service in modern history.
Harel picked up a team of 11 which included, among others, a woman, a doctor, a skilled forger and a specialist in make-up. In Argentina, where Eichmann had been hiding under the pseudonym "Ricardo Klement", Harel's team rented half a dozen safe houses and then followed the man whom they thought was Eichmann for almost two years.
When Eichmann's identity was verified, Harel gave the green light to his team which, on May 11 , kidnapped Eichmann when he got off a bus on Garibaldi Street, then took him to a hideout where he was kept for nine days. On the afternoon of the departure day Eichmann was given an injection which made him drowsy and was then taken to Buenos Aires airport.
With Harel's people around him - some posing as male nurses, and others as relatives of the "sick passenger" - Eichmann went past immigration officers and was spirited on to a plane which took off for Israel at midnight on May The plane, a special Britannia airliner, was the aircraft that was flying the Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban back home after attending Argentina's th anniversary celebrations; Eban had no idea that with him on board was Eichmann.
Eichmann was found guilty and on December 15 was sentenced to death by hanging. After his appeal had been rejected by the Israeli Supreme Court, he was executed on May 31 In The House on Garibaldi Street Harel vividly described how he planned, led and executed the operation. Harel was born Isser Halperin in at Vitebsk in central Russia, where his father had a small but prosperous vinegar factory.
As a child Isser was short and thin, and possessed of blue-grey eyes and large, protruding ears; from an early age he was an avid reader of detective books. After the family business was confiscated by revolutionaries, the Haleperins moved to Dvinsk in Latvia, where Isser's father had to start again in business from scratch. At 16, young Isser left home for Riga, where he joined other Jews in preparation and training before emigrating to Palestine.
In , equipped with forged documents and a small pistol, Harel travelled through Warsaw, Vienna and Rome to Genoa, where he took ship for Palestine, then under the British Mandate. Just before disembarking the passengers were advised to get rid of any weapons they had, to avoid being sent back to Italy. Most threw their weapons into the sea, but not Harel. Instead, he dismantled his pistol, hiding the pieces in a loaf and, poker-faced, passed through the British border control. In Palestine Harel worked as a labourer and later, with a group of young people, helped to establish Kibbutz Shefaim.
He joined Hagana, the largest clandestine Jewish organisation, which in ordered him to join the locally-recruited auxiliary constabulary.
But following a row in which he punched a British officer he was dismissed; he then joined the Jewish Settlement Police Force. In Harel joined Shai, the intelligence service of Hagana. At first he failed to impress his superiors - he had difficulties expressing himself, his written reports were poor, and he had the habit of keeping his fingers in his mouth and biting his nails; he also lacked a sense of humour.
But soon he made his mark as an authoritarian, efficient and tough soldier - "Napoleon" and "Isser the Terrible" were only a few of his nicknames. In Harel was promoted to lead the Tel Aviv section of Shai where his job was to spy on the paramilitary groups Irgun and the Stern Gang; he also organised some of the intelligence coups against the British, including the obtaining of the Central Investigation Department dossiers. His efficiency won him the respect and friendship of Ben Gurion, leader of the Jewish community in Palestine.
On June 30 , Harel established Shin Bet Sherut HaBitachon HaKlali in Hebrew which was the organisation in charge of internal counter-espionage and spying on dangerous dissidents, and which he led until After the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN mediator in Palestine, on September 7 , Harel, with the approval of Ben Gurion, arrested many of the Stern Gang terrorists, effectively rooting out and dismantling the organisation; he then turned on Irgun.
Harel also used Shin Bet to carry out surveillance upon political parties opposed to Ben Gurion's Mapai, notably the Left-wing United Workers' party, Mapam, thought to have been infiltrated by Communists.
When it was discovered that a bug had been planted in the party headquarters, Harel's organisation was caught red-handed in a domestic political operation and scandal followed.
Harel's spies also followed members of the Right-wing opposition Herut party, led by Menachem Begin. On September 14 , Reuben Shiloach, the first head of Mossad, retired, leaving the organisation in the hands of the year-old Harel.
As the new Memuneh "the one in charge" , Harel recruited large numbers of former Irgun and Stern Gang members; among them Yitzhak Shamir, the future prime minister. Harel, meanwhile, became one of Israel's most powerful figures, heading Mossad and Shin Bet and becoming chairman of the secret services' co-ordinating committee. On the eve of the Sinai war, Harel launched a deception operation which helped keep Egyptian bombers away from Israeli cities.
In , when Ben Gurion was putting together his new government, Harel pressed to become his deputy. In his diaries, Ben Gurion noted that Harel "is embittered over my making. Moshe Dayan a minister and [Shimon] Peres deputy minister, and not him".
On being rebuffed, Harel approached influential members of the party, warning of the dangers Peres and Dayan posed for democracy. Harel was often criticised for spending time and money on flamboyant operations, such as Eichmann's kidnapping or pursuing - with 40 agents - the eight-year-old Yosalee Schumacher, who had been abducted from his parents and taken by ultra-Orthodox Jews to America.
He also came under considerable criticism for not concentrating enough on obtaining information on the Arab world; but he, typically, fought back: "You tell me our job is only to watch the Arabs? And there are plenty of them all over the world, in Latin America just as much as in Moscow.
In , Harel received information that German scientists had helped Egypt to develop unconventional weapons, and he issued dire warnings demanding that Ben Gurion formally ask the West German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, to intervene to halt the work. But Ben Gurion was determined not to clash with the West German government. Harel then, on his own initiative, launched subversive operations against the Germans and their families, including letter bombs.
When challenged, he said: "There are people who are marked to die. Ben Gurion was furious; he confronted Harel, who fought back in fury and finally offered his resignation, saying: "I cannot stay if I disagree so profoundly with the Prime Minister.
On his last trip to Paris, just before leaving office, Harel met with one of his agents at Yar, a little Russian restaurant. To his great surprise, I agreed, and to his even greater surprise I thanked him in his mother tongue, which he had never guessed that I knew. In Harel was made special adviser on intelligence to prime minister Levi Eshkol; however, at the end of June , he resigned, complaining that important intelligence information was concealed from him.
Three years later, Harel joined the newly established party Ha'reshima Ha'mamlachtit and entered politics as an elected member of Israel's Knesset.
In the last years of his life, Harel was living in Zahala, a quiet suburb of Tel Aviv. Populist Right-wing former Mayor of Toronto whose drunken antics scandalised his fellow citizens. Terms and Conditions. Style Book. Weather Forecast. Accessibility links Skip to article Skip to navigation. Friday 05 June Isser Harel. Harel was married and had a daughter. In Obituaries. Telegraph on Facebook. More from The Telegraph. More from the web.
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Isser Harel, the son of Jewish parents, was born in Russia in His family fled to Lithuania after the family business was confiscated by Bolsheviks in Harel moved to Palestine in and spent five years working on a kibbutz before establishing his own orange-packing company. The Jewish state of Israel was established on 14th May when the British mandate over Palestine came to an end. In Harel was appointed head of Mossard and five years later overall chief of Israeli's secret services. He also took part in organizing a dirty tricks campaign against Mapam, the Israeli left-wing political party. This involved Mossard working closely with the secret services in Iran and Turkey against the government in Egypt.
Isser Harel, 91, Israeli Who Helped Found Mossad and Led Capture of Eichmann
In his capacity as Mossad director he oversaw the capture and covert transportation to Israel of Holocaust organizer Adolf Eichmann. The exact date of his birth was not passed on to him because the book of Gemara in which the date was recorded was lost in the migrations of the Russian Revolution of and World War I. The family had a vinegar factory in Vitebsk. It was a gift of his maternal grandfather, who had a concession to make vinegar in large parts of Tsarist Russia. Young Isser was five years old when the revolution broke out and Vitebsk passed several times between the Whites and the Reds. On one occasion he saw Leon Trotsky give a speech in the town.