Israel’s Silent Defender

Title:                      Israel’s Silent Defender

Author:                 Amos Gilboa

Gilboa, Amos (2011) and Ephraim Lapid, eds. Israel’s Silent Defender: An Inside Look at Sixty Years of Israeli Intelligence. Springfield, NJ: Gefen Books

LCCN:    2011034334

UB251.I78 M4313 2011


  • Hebrew title: Melekhet maḥshevet.


Date Posted:      March 4, 2016

Reviewed by Hayden Peake.[1]

The Israeli Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center (IICC) is a nonprofit institution in Tel Aviv, founded in 1985 by Meir Amit, former head of both Israeli military intelligence and the Mossad. The IICC seeks to further public knowledge of lsrael’s intelligence support to national security. It operates a website, high-tech library, information center, museum, and newsletter. And now it has sponsored this book on the Israeli intelligence community.

In the introduction by the current IICC chairman, Efraim Halevy, also a former director of the Mossad, readers are warned that for security reasons, many operations are not included or even mentioned.

Nevertheless, the editors have assembled 36 firsthand accounts of intelligence operations that span the 60-year history of the three principal Israeli intelligence services—the military intelligence branch of the Israeli Defense Force, often called Aman (identified here as Israeli Defense Intelligence, or IDI); the security service, called Shabak or Shin Bet (referred to in this book as Israel Security Agency, or ISA); and the foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad, whose name is the Hebrew word for “institute.”

The contributions are divided into six sections. In the first, the heads of the three services describe their missions. Section two tells how and why each branch was formed. The third section deals with operations, both successful and failed. Examples of the former include the attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981, the Entebbe rescue raid in 1976; and intelligence preparations for the Six Day War. Operation SUZANNA, or the Lavon Affair, is an example of a covert action gone wrong, and its political consequence is explained.[2]

Section four depicts intelligence challenges in various geographic areas of the Middle East, with emphasis on terrorism and the Iranian nuclear threat. Of particular interest is the chapter on how terrorist organizations influence believers to support aggression. Section five gives a brief tutorial on principal intelligence functions and the roles of the military services. The final section, “The Dynamics of Israeli Intelligence Activity,” includes a substantial article on the Mossad by Halevy.

There are also chapters on the operational demands put on the services, the relationships between decisionmakers and the services, and the Revision Department. This department; also known as the Devil’s Advocate Department, may be unique to the Israeli intelligence community. It analyzes current operational plans with an eye toward avoiding past mistakes. The final chapter considers problems that can result from collective thinking. The author encourages open discussion of decisions made by persons “at the top of the pyramid.” (p. 316) There are also three appendices. The first is a chronology of key events and the leaders involved, the second contains brief summaries of operations not covered elsewhere, and the third lists the heads of the intelligence services from their origins to the present. The photographs, in color and black and white, illustrate important buildings, people, and events in Israel’s intelligence history. Altogether, Israel’s Silent Defender provides a fine summary of the origins and present-day configuration of Israel’s intelligence community.

[1] Hayden Peake is a frequent reviewer of books on intelligence and this review appeared in The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies (19, 1, Winter/Spring, 2013, p. 124). Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Di recto rate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. These and many other reviews and articles may be found on line at

[2] The operation involved placement by agents of explosives in Egypt in 1954. The bombings were to be made to look like acts of violence by the Muslim Brotherhood.

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