Intelligence correspondent Ronen Bergman persuades Mossad agents, Shin Bet and military personnel to disclose their stories on state-sponsored killings.
The work alleges that the country has used orchestrated murders instead of warShutterstock
Poisoned toothpaste that takes a month to end its target’s life. Armed drones. Exploding mobile phones. Spare tyres with remote-control bombs. Assassinating enemy scientists and discovering the secret lovers of Muslim clerics.
A new book chronicles these techniques and asserts that Israel has carried out at least 2,700 assassination operations in its 70 years of existence. While many failed, they add up to far more than any other western country, the book says.
Ronen Bergman, the intelligence correspondent for Yediot Aharonotnewspaper, persuaded many agents of Mossad, Shin Bet and the military to tell their stories, some using their real names. The result is the first comprehensive look at Israel’s use of state-sponsored killings.
The 45-year-old has authored previous books about Israeli politics which have been well-received Ronen Bergman/
Based on 1,000 interviews and thousands of documents and running more than 600 pages, Rise and Kill First makes the case that Israel has used assassination in the place of war, killing half a dozen Iranian nuclear scientists, for instance, rather than launching a military attack. It also strongly suggests that Israel used radiation poisoning to kill Yasser Arafat kill the long-time Palestinian leader, an act its officials have consistently denied.
Mr Bergman writes that Mr Arafat’s death in 2004 fit a pattern and had advocates. But he steps back from flatly asserting what happened, saying that Israeli military censorship prevents him from revealing what – or if – he knows.
The book’s title comes from the ancient Jewish Talmud admonition, “If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.” Mr Bergman says a huge percentage of the people he interviewed cited that passage as justification for their work. So does an opinion by the military’s lawyer declaring such operations to be legitimate acts of war.
Despite the many interviews, including with former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, Mr Bergman, the author of several books, says the Israeli secret services sought to interfere with his work, holding a meeting in 2010 on how to disrupt his research and warning former Mossad employees not to speak with him.
He says that while the US has tighter constraints on its agents than does Israel, President George W. Bush adopted many Israeli techniques after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and President Barack Obama launched several hundred targeted killings.
“The command-and-control systems, the war rooms, the methods of information gathering and the technology of the pilotless aircraft or drones, that now serve the Americans and their allies were all in large part developed in Israel,” Mr Bergman writes.
The book gives a textured history of the personalities and tactics of the various secret services. In the 1970s, a new head of operations for Mossad opened hundreds of commercial companies overseas with the idea that they might be useful one day. For example, Mossad created a Middle Eastern shipping business that, years later, came in handy in providing cover for a team in the waters off Yemen.