Aman, Shin Beth: These two names may not ring a bell, but they are, along with the much more well-known service Mossad, part of the Israeli intelligence community. Eric Denécé and David Elkaïm give us a account of the action of the Israeli intelligence services from the founding of the State of Israel to the present day.
Director of the French Intelligence Research Center (CF2R), Eric Denécé, former analyst, is one of the leading French specialists in the intelligence world. After having wondered about the history and the quality of the French intelligence services in "Are the French secret services null?" », He delivers, in collaboration with David Elkaïm, also a researcher at CF2R, a high quality work. If it seems difficult to work on archives of the Israeli services, the authors have filled these gaps by relying, on the one hand, on the press specializing in intelligence, as well as on the memoirs of former actors and former heads of Israeli services.
The distribution of tasks between the different departments
Intelligence is immediately presented as the “life insurance” of the Hebrew state. A small state with no strategic territorial depth in the event of a conflict, confronted from its creation with hostility from its neighbors, Israel quickly had to rely on intelligence in order to prevent and anticipate any conflict. The tasks were gradually divided between three main services: the Mossad is responsible for intelligence gathering in surrounding countries and clandestine operations, the Shin Beth is responsible for domestic intelligence, and Aman is responsible for military intelligence. Although very descriptive and sometimes tedious, the first part of the book recalls the history of structures and the role of each of the departments.
From the Six Day War to Iran's nuclear program: the many challenges facing Israeli intelligence
More than the simple anecdotes that can sometimes be found in books on espionage, Denécé and Elkaïm's book reflects all the issues of international politics since the 1950s. In the 1960s, intelligence was mainly concerned with intentions of the main Arab rivals - Syria and Egypt - and therefore endeavored to infiltrate the upper echelons of power: this is the case in particular of the spy Elie Cohen, who, pretending to be an Arab merchant, is inserted in the best political and military Syrians, even rubbing shoulders with Hafez al-Assad. The Palestinian question also occupies a significant part of the book. In this regard, it is necessary to underline the interest of an approach by the intelligence world, giving greater complexity to this question. The book looks in particular at the testimonies of former officers and directors of Israeli intelligence, gathered in the excellent documentary "The Gatekeeper".
The last part of the book deals with the confrontation of the Israeli services with Iran and its nuclear program. In addition to the targeted assassination of scientists and the sabotage of nuclear power plants, united under the name of "Plan Daniel", it is also an opportunity to address the issue of cyberespionage: the Israelis, at the forefront in this field, are notably at the origin of the computer worm Stuxnet, which they made in collaboration with the NSA.
Because of the many international issues and the situation of insecurity and uncertainties affecting Israel, this book constitutes an excellent introduction to the history of international relations in the Near and Middle East. He recalls both the efforts made by the Jewish state to ensure its security and the need to establish a dialogue with its neighbors. It also means knowing the intentions of other countries in the region, a task that falls to the Israeli intelligence community.
The Israeli Secret Service: Aman, Mossad and Shin Beth, by Eric Denécé, David Elkaïm. Tallandier, 2014.