Rafi Eitan

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Person.png Rafi Eitan  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
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BornRaphael "Rafi" Hantman
23 November 1926
Ein Harod, Mandatory Palestine
Died23 March 2019 (Age 92)
Alma materLondon School of Economics

Rafael "Rafi" Eitan was an Israeli intelligence agent, best known for coordinating the Mossad operation that led to the arrest of Adolf Eichmann in May 1960:[1]

"I could have killed him but I was under orders to bring him back alive."[2]

Rafi Eitan's career in the Mossad, heading or involved in many secret operations, included unmasking Israel Beer, a former Lieutenant-Colonel in the IDF found to be spying for the Soviet Union; thwarting German armaments sales to Egypt; involvement in the diversion of highly enriched uranium from an American nuclear fuel plant (“The Apollo Affair”); advising Britain's MI6 on counterterrorism operations in Northern Ireland; helping Moroccan ruler King Hassan II to make a political rival in Paris “disappear”; and planning the Israeli Air Force attack on the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor in June 1981.[3]


In 1981, Rafi Eitan was named head of the Defence Ministry's Lekem, the Bureau for Scientific Relations, replacing Israeli spy-master Benjamin Blumberg, where he continued work on counterterrorism collecting scientific and technical intelligence information from other countries through espionage.

Following the disbandment of Lekem in 1987, Eitan was offered the position as head of the state-owned Israel Chemicals Corporation, from which he retired in 1993 at the age of 67.

Jonathan Pollard

In June 1984, Eitan was responsible for an espionage operation against the United States during which he recruited Naval Intelligence Analyst Jonathan Pollard to steal American intelligence material. The operation lasted eighteen months and was shut down after the arrest of Pollard in the US in 1985. His arrest revealed the existence of Lekem to the US authorities. Pollard was convicted and served 30 years of a life sentence.[4]

Richard Smyth

Also in 1985 in California, an aerospace engineer, Richard Kelly Smyth, the president of a company called MILCO, was indicted for smuggling over 800 krytrons to Israel without the required US State Department Munitions Export License. Because of their potential for use as triggers of nuclear weapons, the export of krytrons is tightly regulated in the United States. A number of cases involving the smuggling or attempted smuggling of krytrons have been reported, as countries seeking to develop nuclear weapons have attempted to procure supplies of krytrons for igniting their weapons. Just before trial, and facing a possible 105 years in prison, Richard Smyth and his wife suddenly disappeared. Sixteen years later they were discovered and arrested while living as fugitives in Málaga, Spain, and extradited back to the United States where he was convicted in the case. The krytrons shipped by Smyth were sent to an Israeli company called Heli-Trading Ltd owned by prominent Israeli movie producer Arnon Milchan.[5] Before his prominent Hollywood career, Milchan had served for decades as a Lekem agent, under the direct command of Eitan's predecessor, Benjamin Blumberg. It later became clear that the company MILCO served as a Lekem front company for obtaining sensitive equipment, technologies and materials for Israeli secret defence-related programs, and in particular its nuclear program.[6]

Hindawi affair

Israeli intelligence operative Ari Ben-Menashe wrote in "Profits of War: Inside the Secret US-Israeli Arms Network" that the Hindawi affair in April 1986 was an operation which had been conceived by Mossad. The organiser of the plot was Rafi Eitan who led Israeli intelligence's anti-terrorist group. The operation was meant to implicate the Syrian embassy in London as involved in terrorism and have all the Syrian diplomats expelled from England. Jordanian Mohammed Radi Abdullah, a paid Israeli agent, offered his cousin Hindawi $50,000 to place explosives by way of his girlfriend, Ann Marie Murphy on El Al Flight 016 at Heathrow airport.[7]

Death on the Rock

Revelations from the book "Gideon's Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad" by Gordon Thomas, describe how the Margaret Thatcher government in Britain during the mid-1980s developed a relationship with Rafi Eitan as an advisor to the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) on counterterrorism operations in Northern Ireland.[8] This relationship came to a head in March 1988, when Mossad agents helped track a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb team in Gibraltar. The three-member IRA team was killed in Operation Flavius by the British Special Air Service, under highly controversial circumstances. It was subsequently reported in British papers that Eitan and Mossad had played a surveillance role in the operation, and IRA command put out orders for assassination teams in Ireland and Britain to find and kill Rafi Eitan. Due to this threat of assassination, and the embarrassment of the Israeli government over Eitan's unauthorised relationship with the operation, Eitan left Britain and ended his relationship with Britain's intelligence services. This incident strained Israeli/British relations for several years.[9]


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:The plot to blow up El Al Flight 016Article6 April 2019Marianne Colloms
Dick Weindling
Two weeks after Nezar Hindawi's trial, French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac was interviewed on tape by Arnaud de Borchgrave, the editor of the Washington Times. When he was asked about the attempt to blow up the El Al plane Chirac said he had been told by the West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher that they believe it had been set up by Mossad agents to destabilise Syria's Assad regime.