Israeli Spymaster and Mossad Founding Father David Kimche Dies at 82

U.K.-born Kimche was among among those who designed the Mossad agency's doctrine and modus operandi.

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Yossi Melman
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Yossi Melman

Former top Mossad operative David Kimche, one of Israel's top diplomats and a classic intelligence and spymaster, died Monday at the age of 82.

Kimche, the youngest of nine siblings, was born in 1928 to a Zionist family in London. He immigrated to Israel at the age of 18 and shortly after joined the War of Independence as a combat fighter.

After the war, he studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and later co-authored a book titled "Both Sides of The Hill, with his brother John, detailing the diplomatic and military developments of the war.

Their take on the war was the first of its kind, lending the perspective of both sides in an attempt to present a more balanced approach to the conflict.

Kimche joined the Mossad spy agency in the early 1950s, and was in essence one of the organization's founding fathers, among those who designed its doctrine and modus operandi.

He was involved in just about every aspect of the Mossad over the course of his service, eventually reaching the position of deputy head of Mossad.

While serving in the Tsomet department responsible for running agents, he recruited and operated agents which were sent to infiltrate Arab countries.

While in the Mossad's Tevel Unit - serving as liaison with foreign espionage agencies - Kimche was involved in enhancing cooperation with Mossad's counterparts throughout the world.

He was sent by the unit to serve in Africa under a borrowed identity, - presenting himself as a journalist - during the 1960s, an era when the continent was extremely important to Israeli diplomacy.

Kimche also was involved in operations of the Mossad's Bitzur Unit, which is responsible for the security of Jews around the world, and for their immigration from Arab states.

He was also one of the founders of the Mossad's research department.

Kimche was a classic intelligence man, similar to the style of the characters described by the British author John le Carre in his spy novels.

He was a man of soft words, who was known for his elegant English accent and courteousness. These qualities would sometimes deceive people, as he could be very cunning, determined, and even cruel.

During the 1950s Kimche was involved in exposing Avri Elad, an Israeli intelligence officer who betrayed his comrades, enabling the Egyptian security services to Arrest a network of local Jewish youth working for the Israeli intelligence. Two of them were hanged.

In 1957 Kimche was in Germany, attempting to recruit a German with Nazi background in order to send him to Egypt to spy for the Mossad. Kimche learned of Elad's relations with the Egyptian military attaché in Germany and this expose lead to Elad's investigation and eventually he was arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison.

In 1965 a coup occurred in Zanzibar, an Island off the coast of Africa, which was at the time ruled by a Muslim minority, decedents of Arab slave merchant. The rulers maintained a pro-Arab policy. So it happened, Kimche was in Zanzibar during the coup, and rumors started circulating that he was involved in assisting the rebels.

A decade later, Kimche played a central role in establishing Israel's secret ties with the Christian Phalangists in Lebanon, which provided the groundwork for Israel's military invasion of that country in 1982. Like other Israelis, he was eventually disappointed by their performance and betrayal.

Kimche left the Mossad in 1979, after almost 30-years, due to a quarrel with the then Mossad Chief Yitzhak Hofi. Shortly after his retirement, Foreign minister Yitzhak Shamir, who he knew from their Mossad days, appointed him the foreign ministry's director general.

Kimche was Israel's point man in the Iran-contra affair, in which Washington authorized Israel to sell U.S. weapons to Iran in violation of an international embargo. The sales were an attempt to induce Iranian-backed guerrillas in Lebanon to free American hostages, but some of the proceeds went to fund anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

Kimche left the foreign ministry after six years turned to private business, amongst other places in Africa and the Persian Gulf, and continued to serve in various public capacities.

In his last years, Kimche was involved in initiating peace talks with the Palestinians, he was the president of the Israel Council of Foreign Relations, and two years ago he signed a petition supporting talks with the Hamas.

He was married twice, and is survived by his wife and four children. He will be buried on Wednesday at 2PM in Kibbutz Shefayim cemetery in a state ceremony.



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