Binyamin Gibli, the head of Military Intelligence during a failed Israeli sabotage operation in Egypt in 1954, died yesterday at 89. The failed plan, known as the Lavon Affair, embroiled the government in an international scandal.
Gibli was one of the masterminds behind the operation aimed at swaying Western governments into a more favorable stance toward Israel. According to the plan, operatives would carry out attacks on Western targets in Egypt to ruin ties with Cairo.
Egyptian-born Jews were selected by Israeli intelligence for the task, given training in Israel, and returned to Egypt where they awaited orders to carry out attacks. Egyptian intelligence uncovered the plan, however, after only two unsuccessful operations. Four Jewish operatives died as a result: One was killed during interrogation, another committed suicide and two others, Shmuel Azar and Moshe Marzouk, were hanged.
After the affair was revealed, Gibli was forced to resign his post along with Defense Minister Pinhas Lavon. Gibli remained in the Israel Defense Forces, however, and went on to command the Givati Brigade during the 1956 Sinai War. His promotion in the army was later halted by then-prime minister David Ben-Gurion, who refused to make him a major general because of his involvement in the Lavon Affair.
Gibli was sent to Scandinavia and London as the IDF's military attache before he retired from the army. Throughout his life, he maintained he did not give the command to activate the cells whose capture sparked the Lavon Affair. In his memoirs, he refuted claims against him.
Born in Petah Tikva in 1919, Gibli served as a police officer during the British Mandate. Upon Israel's declaration of independence he was made head of the police in Jerusalem until 1950, when he was appointed head of Military Intelligence.
After his discharge from the army Gibli worked in a number of high-profile jobs in the private sector.
He was head of an Israeli car manufacturer, the director-general of a major subsidiary of the Koor Corporation and, most notably, chairman of the Israel Electric Corporation.
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