Mike Harari, 'The Zionist James Bond,' Dies at 87

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Michael "Mike Harari" in 2010.Credit: David Bachar

Michael (“Mike”) Harari, a former senior official in the Mossad, died on Sunday at his Tel Aviv home at age 87.

Harari, born in Tel Aviv in 1927, joined the Mossad in 1954, but he began fighting for Israel when he enlisted at 16-and-a-half in the pre-state Palmach elite fighting force. He later worked for the illegal immigration organization Mossad Le’aliyah Bet in Europe after World War II, joined the Shin Bet security service, founded the Foreign Ministry’s security and protection service, and smuggled Jews out of Eastern European countries.

In 1970 he was appointed head of the Mossad’s special operations division, Caesarea, and established within it the Kidon (Spear) unit that among other things specialized in targeted assassinations. He led the fight against Palestinian terrorist organizations for a decade.

Harari commanded Operation Wrath of God against the Black September terrorist group, which was behind the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. He was responsible for collecting the intelligence leading to the Aviv Ne’urim (Spring of Youth ) operation in Beirut in 1973, in which three senior Fatah leaders were killed; and commanded the operation in which Hassan Ali Salameh, a senior member of the Black September organization, was killed in 1979.

His otherwise successful career in the agency was tarnished in July 1973, when a team from the Mossad’s Kidon unit killed Ahmed Bouchiki, an innocent Moroccan waiter, in Lillehammer, Norway after mistaking him for the real target: Salameh. Several Mossad agents were caught and served time in jail, but Harari and then-Mossad chief Zvi Zamir, who supervised the operation on the ground, managed to get out of Norway.

Most of the operations Harari commanded in the decade from 1970 to 1980 are still secret. In 1981 he retired from the Mossad and went into private business. He served as Panama’s honorary consul in Israel and as an adviser to Panama’s former president, Manuel Noriega, who was ousted and arrested in 1989 after the United States’ invasion that year. In 2007 Harari received a medal for a secret project he undertook for the Mossad during Meir Dagan’s time, purportedly related to the Iranian nuclear weapons project.

The characterization of Harari, who was called “Israel’s number 1 spy” and “the Zionist James Bond,” starred in many films, including Steven Spielberg’s Munich in 2005, in which he was played by Israeli actor Moshe Ivgy. His life story was told in a book by Aaron Klein, published by Keter Publishing (in Hebrew), which came out earlier this year.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Harari belonged to that “rare breed of builders of the state.” Ya’alon wrote that “most of Mike Harari’s actions for the security of the State of Israel as a fighter and a commander in the Mossad are unknown and will never be known.”

“Everyone who was granted the honor of knowing him knew he was a rare man of operations and a path breaker, courageous, daring and creative, whose influence on the Mossad and generations of fighters is still clear today and will remain so for many more years,” said Ya’alon.

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