BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Yossi Melman, co-author of the new book "Every Spy a Prince: The Complete History of Israel's Intelligence Community." Who was Elie Cohen?
YOSSI MELMAN,CO- AUTHOR, "EVERY SPY A PRINCE: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF ISRAEL'S INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY": Elie Cohen was an Israeli spy who penetrated the high echelons of the Syrian government in the early '60s and he provided Israel with the best information available.
LAMB: What was so different about his intelligence activities? What made his story so famous?
MELMAN: That he befriended the top echelons of the Syrian government, including the president of Syria. He became a friend of Syrian air force pilots and he provided information to Israel and he helped Israel to win the war -- the Six Days War in '67, and later on he was arrested and hanged by the Syrians.
LAMB: So he's dead?
MELMAN: He's dead. Yeah.
LAMB: How did he do it?
MELMAN: Well, he was of Egyptian origins. He was born in Egypt, as a Jew, later on in the early '50s immigrated to Israel, as many Jews do, recruited by the Israeli intelligence, by the military intelligence, like their own by Mossad, trained by them, received a new identity from these Israeli handlers as a Syrian traitor. In order to establish his new identity, he went to Argentina, which used to have a huge Syrian community. And he befriended the Syrian community in Argentina, got their trust, and from Argentina, from Buenos Aries, was sent to Damascus, into Syria, parading as a legitimate merchant, but actually he was an Israeli spy.
LAMB: Dan Raviv, co-author of "Every Spy a Prince." What's the story about the Israeli intelligence community's ability to steal a MiG-21 from Iraq?
DAN RAVIV,CO- AUTHOR, "EVERY SPY A PRINCE: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF ISRAEL'S INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY": Well, what they had to do was convince a pilot to do it in the mid-'60s. The Israelis are very good at cataloging everything they possibly can about the chief officers of the armies of the Arab countries surrounding them. It often includes air force pilots. So dossiers are collected by Aman -- that's Israeli military intelligence -- about everything they can -- personal lives, where they live -- looking for points of weakness. Well, they found a man called Munia Redfah in Iraq, an Iraqi air force pilot. They found out that he wasn't quite happy about everything. Among other things, he was disappointed at the time or unhappy that Iraq was bombing Kurdish rebels -- Kurdish minority villages. Just like these days, it happens as well.
Well, anyway, the Israelis approached him through a woman. They sent a female agent to Baghdad. She befriended him and it was -- well, what in the intelligence business they call a honey trap. She lured him to go abroad to Paris -- you know, "Come and in Paris you can have all my charms." And he did and he already was suspicious that maybe she's an intelligence officer, but he was willing. And in Paris she introduced him to Israelis, took him to Israel. The deal was done -- a million dollars, shelter -- his wife and children -- yes, he was married -- also were smuggled out of Iraq and the Redfahs live in Israel now -- new names, etc. Got his million dollars and more importantly, Israel and the United States and everyone Israel wanted to share it with in the West got a look at that MiG. So it's quite a feat, considered one of their best achievements.
LAMB: What got the two of you interested in doing a book -- by the way, it said, "The Complete History of Israel's Intelligence Community."
MELMAN: We met in London as working journalists, and that was in 1981. After a couple of years, in 1984, we started writing articles for British and American newspapers here, for The Washington Post. Most of our articles were dealing with the Middle East, with Israeli politics, but also with defense and security and intelligence-related issues. Sometime along the way we thought, we have a story to tell. We are writing articles about the Middle East, about intelligence, strategic issues, let's try to write a story which, until then, I don't think, has been told to the extent we wanted it to be told. And we decided that we would try to research for a book about the complete history of the Israeli intelligence because until this book comes out, other books have been written, but basically they are of glorifying nature, portraying the Israeli intelligence as Superman, not human beings. And we wanted also to convey the history of Israel and the problems facing the Middle East through the eyes of the intelligence community. So this book is not just about the history of Israel's intelligence, but also, to a certain extent, the history of the state of Israel and the history of the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
LAMB: Where were you born and raised?
MELMAN: I was born in Poland, but raised in Israel. My parents immigrated to Israel when I was six years old -- that was in 1957 -- and all my upbringing is in Israel. I'm an Israeli citizen, I served in the Israeli army. I went to an Israeli university.
LAMB: Where are you now?
MELMAN: I spent the last year at Harvard as a Neiman Fellow at Harvard University, and I'm going back to Israel to work as a journalist there.
LAMB: And by the way, when you go back to Israel, you still have military duty to do every year?
MELMAN: Yes, as a reservist, up to 30, 40 days a year.
LAMB: Dan Raviv, where are you from?
RAVIV: I'm a New Yorker. Born in New York, raised in New York.
RAVIV: Yeah, New York City, and my parents moved out to Long Island, where they are -- and Harvard-educated, but then moved overseas. Got a job with CBS News as a reporter in Tel Aviv, but after two years there, moved to London, where I've been for the last 10 years with CBS News.
LAMB: We hear you mostly on the radio?
RAVIV: That's right. There's some television work, as well. Mainly radio work for CBS.
LAMB: When did you first get interested in the intelligence story?
RAVIV: Hmm. In writing about Israeli politics with Yossi, writing some pieces for The Washington Post and other newspapers. And it was a repeated fact that a lot of the information came from -- well, from Israeli leaks, from Israeli experts, and we were fascinated, as well with, "How do they do it? How do they collect so much? How does it work?" But also, from time to time, came across obvious flaws, obvious problems. I covered trials in Britain of Israelis who were smugglers or even a kidnapping case where part of the defense was, "We were working for the Mossad," that kind of thing. And it made me wonder how much truth there is in that. And again, we all could go to the bookstore or the library and get a book called "The Mossad" or whatever and they can be wonderful books, but it's just adventure stories. We said, "No one's looked at it seriously." And that's what we decided to do. So no apologies for calling it the "complete history." We certainly did our best.
LAMB: Is 1973 and the surprise of the Egyptian-Syrian invasion the biggest mistake the intelligence committee's ever made?
MELMAN: Yes, in terms of its impact on Israel, that was the biggest mistake and it was a costly one. More than 2,000 Israeli soldiers were killed in the '73 war. But in terms of the most embarrassing incident, I think that the failure in July 1973 to assassinate the right person. Israel was after the leader of a Palestinian group, Black September, who was responsible for the massacring of Israeli athletes a year earlier at the Olympics. And Israeli intelligence as ordered by the prime minister, then Golda Meir, was after him and after his associates. Twelve of them were assassinated by the Israeli intelligence, by a hit team selected by the Mossad. And mistakenly, in July '73, in a small town called Lillehamer, in Norway, the Israeli hit team killed the wrong person, a poor Moroccan waiter. Some of these really agents were arrested by the Norwegian police. That was the colossal mistake, the most embarrassing mistake of the Israeli intelligence.
LAMB: Other mistakes?
RAVIV: Oh, well, the 1980s is really the troubled period. Not trying to dwell on them, but finding an important pattern that occurred as political control became less effective. So the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, a decision made, of course, by Prime Minister Begin and his then defense minister, Ariel Sharon, to go into Lebanon, clear out the PLO, but based on faulty intelligence. The Mossad's belief that if it formed a wonderful partnership with the Christians of Lebanon that they would fight alongside the Israelis, and it didn't happen that way, and Israel really paid the price for that. Israel's involvement in Irangate, Israelis told by their prime minister to take part in the effort to sell arms to Iran, "Do the Americans a favor. It'll do us a favor." Again, very muddled thinking in the background.
And we found the Mossad wasn't involved in it -- had tried to stop it but failed to. Some bureaucratic wrangling led to that. A nuclear worker, Mordechai Vanunu, worked in the Dimona nuclear reactor, went abroad, sold many of them nuclear secrets. And the domestic security people, Shin Bet -- that's the equivalent of the FBI -- shouldn't have let him leave the country with his photographs of the reactor. In the end, by the way, the Mossad had to save the day -- sent a female agent, if this sounds familiar now, to London, lured him -- another honey trap. Vanunu was lured abroad to Italy and kidnapped, chained by the Mossad and brought to Israel. So in the 80s, again, it was a matter of damage control.
Oh, and one last one, the Shin Bet again, that sort of FBI agency, caught torturing and killing two Palestinians who had hijacked a bus and then covering up the fact. So in the end, the Shin Bet director had to resign. It was a bad period, the '80s. And I even left one out -- Jonathan Pollard, here in Washington, the American civilian analyst of the Navy who was caught spying for the Israelis, and that's been terrible embarrassment, largely because he was an American Jew. And we say in the book that the Mossad should have learned ages ago not to hire Jews to do that.
LAMB: This picture on the screen -- is that the picture of the Palestinian you were talking about?
MELMAN: Yeah, one of them.
RAVIV: Yes, that's one of the two Palestinian bus hijackers caught by -- those are two Shin Bet agents leading him away, their faces masked at the demand of the Israeli censor. He's being led away. He's clearly alive, but later the official report said all the bus hijackers were caught dead. Because someone in the Israeli press had the guts to print that photo, the story came out that they had captured them and killed them. Now maybe if it had been handled, you know, a la Watergate with an immediate apology by the authorities, they would have gotten away with it, but they kept denying and covering up.
LAMB: Here's a picture of Mordechai Vanunu.
RAVIV: That's right.
LAMB: He's in jail right now in Israel?
MELMAN: Yes, 18 years in jail.
RAVIV: For selling those nuclear secrets. He went abroad -- he said he was serving, you know, the cause of man, in effect, that the world should know that Israel has a nuclear weapon, well, I think maybe the judge has actually listened to his reasoning because, if you will, he only got 18 years.
LAMB: I know I'm not going to pronounce this right -- Lakom?
RAVIV: That's right.
LAMB: Is it right?
RAVIV: That's the Science Liaison Bureau, or the Israelis called it Lakom, which protected the nuclear secrets. We reveal that that was its real foremost function -- but then ended up hiring Pollard, the American here in the US who spied for Israel.
LAMB: How did you find out about Lakom? When was the first time it was ever publicly mentioned?
MELMAN: Over the Pollard affair.
RAVIV: When he was caught, yeah.
MELMAN: Until 1985, when Jonathan Pollard was arrested here in Washington, no one knew about the existence of such a secret organization, not even in the Israeli intelligence community. It was the most sacred secret of the Israeli intelligence, which is a secret, generally speaking. And when Jonathan Pollard was arrested and Israel had to apologize for the US government, it was revealed that he was recruited and handled by Lakom, the SLB, the Science Liaison Bureau. And many eyebrows were raised in Israel, "Lakom, we have never heard of. What's that?" And ...
RAVIV: That's a genuine agency, or it was, because it was disbanded right away to please the Americans. Prime Minister Shimon Peres disbanned Lakom.
LAMB: Who does the same job that Lakom used to do now?
RAVIV: Other people in the defense ministry that's main job is protecting the nuclear program and also acquiring scientific and technological information from around the world, and there's no question the Israelis still have to do that.
LAMB: Let me ask you about this book. Can you buy this book in Israel today?
MELMAN: Sure. It came out in Hebrew in Israel, and quite modestly, it is a best-seller in Israel as well.
LAMB: How much of what you tried to put in here was kept out by the censors?
RAVIV: Very little, to be frank. I think I would have to admit is very little. The chapters that Yossi wrote, which, in effect, came out of Israel, went through the military censor and there was some haggling, and there always is that. It's fascinating, the system of censorship. You can go to the censor and complain, "Why'd you take out that paragraph?" and deal, but I think I have to admit ...
MELMAN: I had to submit my chapters to the Israeli censorship because I'm an Israeli citizen.
RAVIV: And he's subject to those laws. But you also have to admit that you know enough about the system that a little bit you censor yourself. For instance, we knew that there's no point, you can't name the current director of the Mossad. Why try? What's the point? So we didn't.
LAMB: Why won't they name -- as a matter of fact, it's one of the interesting things in the front of the book here. I don't know that James can get at it -- tight shot of it. You list people who have run the different agencies. and right there near the one that's -- oh, I can't see the date -- what is it? 1987?
RAVIV: Just last year the new director of the Mossad took over and in parenthesis we say, "Disclosure forbidden by Israeli law." What would have been the point? I'll be frank, we could have had his name, but what's the point? That's not the point of this book.
MELMAN: And I might land in jail.
RAVIV: Yeah, we'd miss Yossi terribly.
LAMB: Now under this section here, the commanders of military intelligence, Aman, you see a name twice there that's now fairly famous, Chaim Herzog. Who is he? And what did he do?
MELMAN: He's now the president of the state of Israel and he came from intelligence background. He was trained by the British during the second World War as an intelligence officer, operated in Europe. After the war, he immigrated to Israel, joined the Israeli army in 1948 and a year later became the second director of Israel's military intelligence of Aman. Then he was assigned to Washington to work as the military attache here at the Israeli Embassy. In 1954, he returned to Israel, rejoined the army, stayed in the army and in 1958 once again was recalled to become the chief -- the commander of the military intelligence of Aman.
RAVIV: Later a brilliant military analyst, got into politics. That's not forgetting the United States. We have President Bush, who was a CIA director. It's not quite the same thing but, of course, it's a test of a man's mettle, of his patriotism. Very much trusted, did a great job in military intelligence, so people would trust him. He has a wonderful reputation.
LAMB: Prime Minister Shamir.
RAVIV: Also an intelligence background. In his case, not military intelligence -- the Mossad, the foreign espionage arm, the most famous of the agencies, if you will. But Shamir won't tell you exactly what he did. He worked in Paris as operations chief for Europe for a decade, from 1955 to '65, and got his experience of the world, went to lots of countries.
MELMAN: Including some Arab countries undercover.
LAMB: I read somewhere -- was it Shimon Peres who used to fly back and forth and meet with him in Paris?
MELMAN: Met with him. Peres, at that time -- when Shamir was in Paris working for the Mossad, Peres was in charge -- he was director general ...
RAVIV: Director general of the defense ministry.
MELMAN: Yes, he was director general of the defense ministry, and Peres was conducting his own mini foreign policy, cementing the relations between Israel and France. In the '50s, until the '60s, France was the major ally and supporter of the state of Israel. Only in the mid-'60s this role was taken over by United States. But I don't think that Peres, at that time, met with Shamir. If they did, they broke an important intelligence rule. That's the rule of compartmentalization or departmentalization. It means that you should not know the names of your agents.
RAVIV: Or what the others were doing, and you do your own thing, so to speak.
RAVIV: But all these years later -- and it's fascinating -- in Israel it is something to be proud of because Peres now, in his campaign appearances, when he speaksfor the Labor Party, will always point that out, that, "Oh, I was involved in clandestine business as well. I helped make sure that Israel has a certain something in Dimona," obviously referring to the nuclear reactor. Or, "I made sure that we were friendly with France," which meant a lot. People are proud of clandestine experience, whereas perhaps in America people would be ashamed.
MELMAN: And it was France who gave Israel, in 1956, 1957, its first and only nuclear reactor.
RAVIV: Right, a big, meaningful one. There was a little research one, but, yes.
MELMAN: New reactor.
RAVIV: And so the French were vital, so Peres has something to be proud of. But fascinatingly, he can't reveal it all either.
LAMB: We've been jumping all around here. Let's go back to the beginning and get the basics on the table. How many people in Israel are involved in intelligence activities?
MELMAN: Well, it's a state secret. Nobody would tell you exactly. But we believe that there are more than 10,000 people involved directly, employed directly by the various branches of the Israeli intelligence, mainly the military intelligence. One has to remember that the military intelligence, Aman, is the largest and the most important intelligence organization in Israel -- before the Mossad.
LAMB: Before you get to that, I want to show the audience how these different organization are spelled, and explain them each because there are three major intelligence-gathering organizations in Israel. You start with the Mossad. What is it?
RAVIV: Mossad means "institute," by the way, and this is an institute for intelligence and the special operations. So the Mossad is the foreign espionage arm. Compare it to the CIA.
LAMB: All right. Go down here to the ...
RAVIV: Next one is Aman. Military intelligence. It's a Hebrew acronym, so it is the intelligence arm of the armed forces. As Yossi was saying it, in fact, is the largest and most important. And then it says, "Shin Bet." Two Hebrew letters, initials for security services. That's the domestic agency, the equivalent of the FBI.
LAMB: Which one of the three is the most important?
RAVIV: Oh, it would be Aman.
RAVIV: The military intelligence. Nothing is more important than -- you're watching your Arab neighbors for actual movements of troops, how many tanks they have, where are the aircraft. All these other missions that we described are fascinating, and even getting, you know, thousands of Jews into the country is vital. But having a sign that war is coming, that's the key, and that's Aman's job.
LAMB: Which is the second most important?
MELMAN: The Mossad. The problem with Aman, with the military intelligence, is that it lives in the shadow of the flamboyant Mossad. it can be compared to the same problem which is facing United States National Security Agency, NSA. It is the largest, the most important agency in the intelligence community. Yet the most famous one, which gets media attention, is the CIA, the same as in Israel. The Mossad has become -- sort of epitomizing the Israeli intelligence. But the most important agency is military intelligence. Mossad comes second and then you have Shin Bet, the Israeli equivalent to the FBI, in charge of fighting terrorism, counterterrorism, subversion, trying to foil plots against the state of Israel -- political plots and others.
LAMB: You tell the story about how you tried to find out what they call the Mossad when they deal with it publicly.
RAVIV: I thought it was a reasonable question but the trouble is, you can't pick up the phone book. There's no Langley in Israel that you can look up, you know, CIA or, in our case, the Mossad. We thought we should ask, "What shall we call it in English?" We can translate the Hebrew words, and like I said, Mossad is "institute." But when they write a letter to their friends in the CIA or the British intelligence, what do they call themselves? It took a while. It was a matter of asking the prime minister's spokesman -- the best you could do because officially the Mossad is under the prime minister's office. And I think he sort of wondered, "Why do you want to know?" and all that, so we explained and he came up with the Israeli Secret Intelligence Service. And if it were to have initials it would be ISIS, just simple words like that -- interestingly enough, though, kind of a British model. The British don't really like the names MI5 and MI6 for their foreign service. They prefer SIS, Secret Intelligence Service.
LAMB: What was the toughest bit of information to gather for this book?
MELMAN: I think about the extent, the involvement of the Israeli intelligence in a topic which is very unusual for intelligence, and this is immigration. That's probably even more sensitive than dealing with our military capabilities. Since Israel perceived itself not just as a state of the Israelis and for the Israelis but also a state for the Jews whenever, wherever they are. So the Israeli intelligence is becoming the Jewish intelligence, with two specific missions: one, to protect Jewish communities which are in peril, mainly in Arab countries, Jewish communities that are persecuted by the local authorities; and secondly, to bring those Jews from the countries that they are not allowed to immigrate, to bring them over to Israel. Recently the Israeli intelligence was trying and is still trying to bring over Ethiopian Jews from Ethiopia, what was known as Operation Moses. So that, I think, it was tougher than talking -- the researching for Mossad or for Aman. And there is a special unit dealing with Jewish immigration.
LAMB: Well, first of all, how do you become a member of one of these intelligence-gathering organizations? And who cannot be a member?
RAVIV: Well, the latter question's hard to say. They ought to be open-minded and they might be, but most of the agents or operatives that they recruit are from elite combat units, people, usually men, in the Israeli armed forced who prove their courage and their intelligence, their smarts in these units. Occasionally we even spotted a newspaper ad which appeared to be from the intelligence community asking for "people with military experience and languages, foreign passport preferred, for interesting work abroad." Now that sounded like it was probably for the Mossad, so maybe they're having a little bit of trouble recruiting, which we, indeed, have heard. So personal recommendations, oh, it can be through academic institutions. The army still is the key, which, of course, makes it hard for women, by the way, because you don't have women in combat units.
LAMB: You have to be Jewish.
RAVIV: Well, no.
MELMAN: Not necessarily.
RAVIV: Actually not. Even in the Israeli army not everyone is Jewish. It's difficult to be an Arab-Muslim and be in the Israeli army, but they have volunteers as well. There have been Druze certainly -- you know, that minority that's in several countries in the Middle East, including Israel; Circassian Muslims, a particular group of Muslims, some of whom have been wonderfully patriotic to Israel. That's a matter of volunteering, as I say, and there are volunteers.
LAMB: During a recent American involvement in Panama, I know at least in this network there were a tremendous number of calls about an Israeli Mossad agent by the name of Harari -- Mike Harari.
RAVIV: Fellow with the dark glasses.
LAMB: Fellow with the dark glasses right here. This is Mr. Noriega. Whatever happened to Mike Harari? And how did he get to be this man's intelligence assistant?
MELMAN: Mike Harari now was an intelligence officer for many, many years. He worked for the Shin Bet, for the Domestic Security Service in the early '50s. Later on he joined Mossad, the foreign arm of the Israeli intelligence. He became an operational officer for the Mossad. In 1972 he was selected by the head of the Mossad at that time, General Zvi Zamir, to lead the hit team, which was after Palestine terrorists involved in the Munich massacre of the Olympics. After the failure of 1973 in Norway, Mike Harari was not asked any questions. The failure was swept under the carpet and the intelligence community tried to avoid the embarrassment by ignoring what happened without establishing inquire committees to investigate what really happened, what went wrong.
And even maybe as a prize, as an award, he was given a station assignment to be station chief in Central America, in Mexico. And for six or five years, he worked for Mossad, for the Israeli intelligence, in Mexico City in charge of Israeli activities, Mossad intelligence activities in Central America. That's how he befriended Colonel Noriega. Now in 1980 he retired, he left the service, he left the Mossad, started working as an independent, legitimate businessman, as an insurance broker in Israel. He wasn't so successful and he realized that actually what he knows is old craft, the intelligence craft. And he went abroad and started working for Colonel Noriega and became his right-hand man.
LAMB: On the day of the American invasion he got out somehow.
MELMAN: That's a very interesting and good question, yeah.
RAVIV: We think the Americans could have caught him if they'd really wanted to. Perhaps you'll recall there were rumors on the very day and the next day that they had caught the Israeli former Mossad man who had been Noriega's right-hand man. But they didn't seem to have caught him because he turned up in Israel and gave a TV interview, the first in his life, in which he said, "Why is everyone picking on me? I was doing work in Central America. I'm a nice fellow. I got my own company here. Leave me alone. If you keep saying these things about me, you're putting my life in danger." First interview in his life, the beginning of this year -- January of this year. Anyway, in Panama -- I can't say that we yet have the full explanation, but we've concluded that it's more likely that Harari, like many Israeli intelligence operatives, and in this case a former one, knew who's the winning side. He could see Noriega was on his way down, the Americans soon to come in. He probably more or less jumped sides. Probably gave the Americans some information, probably was allowed to slip out just beautifully, easily, got back to Israel.
LAMB: Are there others who used to be -- besides Shin Bet, Aman -- who are now mercenaries around the world?
MELMAN: Well, this is one of the major concerns of this book. We have a special chapter called "Business at All Costs," a chapter which is dealing with the phenomena that many Israeli veterans of the intelligence community, of the armed forces are looking for new jobs as consultants, as trainers, and some of them are lining up with the most brutal regimes in the world -- training drug dealers in Colombia, assisting dictators in Africa, working with brutal regimes in Central America. And we believe that the Israeli government must tighten its control over its citizens. Most of them are not anymore in service. They don't work for the government, they don't represent the agencies; they are privateers. We call them formers -- former intelligence officers, former military officers. They believe that they served Israeli interests. We think that they give Israel a bad name.
RAVIV: The Israelis have to learn how to cut them off and/or employ them or make it clear who they are and who they aren't. And it has just ruined Israel's name in many places.
LAMB: Is it hard to stay objective? You've been on this story -- what? -- 10 years?
RAVIV: Twelve years in my case.
LAMB: Twelve years.
RAVIV: Yeah. I got to Tel Aviv in '78. I consider myself a professional fence-sitter and I don't find it terribly hard. First, in Israeli politics between the Labor Party and the right-wing Likud. I listened to both. There's a lot of sense in what they both say and a lot of problems in what they both say. And then you get the Arab-Israeli dispute. So, no, I think I'm a fence-sitter and that especially for this project it was important not to bring a political bias to it because so many people have great stories to tell. And if you just fit them together carefully -- almost, if I dare say it, like an intelligence operative would do. It's boring work usually, lots of little scraps of information. We felt like we were pasting them together and making sense out of it and then, when we could, run it by someone, bring it and say, "Is this the way it happened?" And if it made sense, great, but it wasn't a matter of politics.
MELMAN: We tried to avoid political judgment. We are professional journalists and this book is not about politics. It's about the Israeli intelligence, and we have been trying to be fair and to judge each incidence on the merit of it without any political bias.
LAMB: Well, let me deal with something that we get from our audience all the time. You're an Israeli citizen.
LAMB: And people that live in Israel become very much involved in the fight to survive. How do you then as a journalist, an Israeli citizen, separate yourself from the need to survive?
MELMAN: I don't see any contradiction between me as an Israeli patriot -- and I'm not ashamed to declare here that I'm an Israeli patriot. I do believe that Israel has the right to exist and that there must be a place for the Jews. And yet, I can be an objective journalist, and that's what I have been doing since I left my military service. I served three years in the Israeli army, like any other Israeli, went to university, and since then, for 14 years, I've been working as a journalist, establishing myself as a professional journalist. And there is no contradiction as I don't see any contradiction between a fight for survival and democracy. Israel is doing both, is fighting for its survival, sometimes rightly, sometimes with wrong policies, but yet, trying to maintain democratic values, and maybe it's a unique case in the modern world.
LAMB: Intelligence service in Israel. You write about the last several years. Has the morale gone down and has the capability gone down?
RAVIV: Well, any intelligence fraternity is a reflection of its society, and Israel has had its problems. Some might call it the problems of middle age, but when I said that before, I've been criticized by saying, "Middle age? You mean it's going to die in 30 years?" I don't really mean that, but as the country became about 40 years old, it faced a new set of challenges -- a brain drain -- this affects the intelligence community -- some of the best and brightest people leaving the country -- questions about the values of society. Once a charming, small, socialist country that you felt sorry for surrounded by a sea of Arabs -- and now the world doesn't feel sorry for you and all Israelis have to contend with that, including Israel's spies. They don't have the natural sympathy they had before in various countries where they wanted to operate.
In the past in Scandinavia -- the case earlier that we said, the hit team that got arrested. The Norwegians did catch some, but went easy on them, let them go. I'm not sure they'd go so easy on Israelis these days. So there's that problem, recruiting, not so much sympathy in the world, not quite as much sympathy at home either because of the string of failures in the '80s. Not all Israelis feel that comfortable with their secret defenders anymore. So they've got a lot of challenges. Now some hopes -- in the last two years, Israel has launched two satellites -- experimental satellites. Both of them have come in since, burned up in the atmosphere. There will be more. And the satellites in the future will, no doubt, be spy-in-the-sky kind of satellites. That will be a great boost, especially to military intelligence. They will feel they can now see the enemy without relying on the US for satellite photos. That's an example really of the technological edge the Israelis would like to emphasize.
MELMAN: And there are some other examples of Israeli society and its intelligence, as reflecting this period of the society, is trying to reform itself. The Israelis were surprised 30 months ago by the Palestinian uprising, that the Palestinian people suddenly, after 20 years of Israeli occupation, said, "Enough is enough," and are still involved in the struggle, in the civilian disobedience, sometimes getting sore and very violent. And the intelligence community was surprised, like the rest of the society and the Israeli government. They didn't believe that the Palestinians would be able to do it. They didn't see the Palestinians as a political entity, as people with national aspirations.
And yet, a year later, a year and a half ago, it was the Israeli military intelligence in charge of providing the government with the annual national intelligence estimate, which acknowledged that the Palestinian people are led by the PLO. Whether Israel like it or not, it's a fact of life and Israel has to accommodate itself with that political factor. Now that was the military intelligence. The prime minister, Mr. Shamir, didn't like the idea and he still doesn't like it, but the intelligence had enough courage to tell the government, "This is a fact of life. You might like it, you might not like it. But our job, our duty is to tell you the truth."
RAVIV: That might be an encouraging sign because in the past, you know, with the prevailing spirit of Israeli politics, intelligence agencies were just going along with the old concept, for instance. Therefore, not seeing the 1973 war coming, not seeing the Palestinian uprising coming. I think they're getting a little more courage back now.
LAMB: You're right that they got caught in '73 because they got cocky after '67. Where do you see it today? Can '73 happen again in 1990?
RAVIV: Not really. I don't think they have a concept that the Arabs would never attack. The Israelis are far more cautious now. I don't think they're cocky. In fact, what you see this year are exercises by senior Israeli military officers, including the head of military intelligence, who does talk to the press. The other agency chiefs are secretive. But military intelligence does. I think he's trying to cheer up the people. There have been a series of press conferences in Israel in which they explain, though with not full details, that Israel can defend itself against chemical attack or warheads that might be launched from Syria or especially Iraq. They don't give the full information, but it's almost to keep the people's spirit up.
LAMB: Is there a nuclear capability in Israel?
MELMAN: The official policy of Israel is that the government has never admitted that Israel has nuclear capabilities, nuclear weapons. The official line is, the government line is Israel will not be the first country in the Middle East to introduce nuclear weapons, yet it is worldwidely assumed that Israel does have nuclear capabilities. And I think ...
RAVIV: I think that it's my chapter, maybe.
MELMAN: No, I think the Arabs know it. I mean, especially after Mordechai Vanunu, who worked at the nuclear installations in Dimona, went abroad and sold his story to a British newspaper.
LAMB: By the way, where is Dimona located?
RAVIV: In the south of Israel, in the Negev Desert. And the caution you saw me express a moment ago was just basically that it is a taboo topic in Israel. It's generally not for Israelis to discuss. It's foreign analysts, it's the CIA, for instance, who have a keen interest in Israel's nuclear program who have been able to establish what they could. And much of the data that I was able to obtain on that subject came from foreigners because the signs are there -- shipments of certain technologies, certain developments that are occurring. And I don't think the Israelis really want you to think they don't have the nuclear bomb. In other words, they want you to think they do because that has a deterrance effect. The Iraqis are much less likely to start a war if they think they'd immediately be destroyed by a nuclear bomb. And the deterrance -- well, it actually seems to work.
LAMB: You write about Saddam Hussein, and before I ask any questions about him, when was this book -- when'd you put it to bed? What was the date?
RAVIV: The end of January this year.
LAMB: And you indicate in here that Saddam Hussein of Iraq is trying to build up the largest force in that part of the world and become the leader militarily, and we've just experienced an example of it. That surprise you at all, what he did with Kuwait and the oil?
MELMAN: No, I'm not surprised. And he might have a few more surprises in his pocket.
LAMB: Can the Israelis handle a million people under arms in Iraq?
MELMAN: Well, it's a tough question. And the Israeli intelligence, the Israeli armed forces are very much concerned about the size of the Iraqi army and, even more than that, about its quality. Iraq was involved, in the last decade, in a bloody war with Iran for 10 years. And Iraqi soldiers, Iraqi tank commanders, Iraqi pilots acquired a lot of experience. Plus, that Iraq has now very sophisticated delivery capabilities -- missiles which can hit Tel Aviv -- and Israel is very much concerned about it. Just recently, the director general, number two in the Israeli defense ministry, General Avri, a former commander of the Israeli air force, said that he believes that Israel is not prepared psychologically and otherwise for the possibility that for the first time, the next war in the Middle East, if there is a war -- and I hope that the war will not occur -- Israeli towns might be exposed for the first time in the history of Israel for Arab attacks -- missiles, bombs, maybe air raids. All previous wars were fought on Arab lands in the front and Israeli citizens, civilians were not harmed.
LAMB: Let me ask you about money. Again, if you were seated right at this desk and we were taking telephone calls, by now the calls would come in saying, "The United States gives an extraordinary amount of money every year to Israel," and you'd hear figures all the way from $3.2 billion up to $10 billion, depending on how you calculate it. I want to ask Dan Raviv, how much money every year does the US taxpayer give to Israel?
RAVIV: I think basically it's the published grant and loans -- and I know most of the loans end up being excused -- of $3.8 billion is where it stands. That's what the Israelis are working on to keep it, at the very least, at $3.8 billion. They no longer expect increases.
LAMB: Is that including the housing money for the immigrants?
RAVIV: Probably not, but those are supposed to be loan guarantees, aren't they? And it's not going to exceed that by much, even if it touches $4 billion, because of some special allocations, because of special needs, but ...
LAMB: There's not a lot of hidden money there somewhere coming in various ways?
RAVIV: No, I really don't think that there is. You can talk about the expense -- but I don't think it would be right to -- of the sixth fleet, the US fleet in the Mediterranean visiting Haifa Harbor. But that's very much in the US interest. They really do want to visit the harbor there. They really do want to preposition weapons, medical supplies in Israel, rather secretive. Don't know the full details of that, but that's not really for the sake of Israel. That's the US that wants the prepositioning in Israel. I guess what I'm trying to say is -- and I hear it all the time when I go to Israel -- they don't want to tell me everything, but they're always trying to assure an American visitor such as myself that it's worth it, the US -- "You guys are getting the value. You are."
LAMB: Did anybody come to you, Yossi -- either one of you, as a matter of fact -- and say, "Don't write this book'?
LAMB: Did anybody come to you and say, "We understand you're writing this book and we'd appreciate you not writing about," say, "the nuclear bomb situation'?
MELMAN: Well, as Danny mentioned earlier, being an Israeli, working in Israel, I know how the Israeli censorship and how the defense establishment is working. So there were certain elements which I believed that would endanger life, so I decided I wouldn't write about them, like naming Mossad agents working in Arab countries. I wouldn't do it. It's really endangering their life and it's not necessary to do it.
LAMB: Do you know that for a fact? Do you know who they are?
MELMAN: I don't know all of them and that's the way it should be, but at least I can think of one case when I self-censored myself when it comes to that kind of information.
LAMB: Are there any Arab intelligence agents that have ever been caught inside Israel?
RAVIV: Oh, yes, but most of the attempts compared with the sophisticated Israeli efforts to set up the elaborate cover stories and plant people in Syria, as we discussed, and also in Egypt, the Arab efforts are kind of elementary. On the other hand, of course, those that are truly successful you never hear about, but the people who were caught, not too impressive, not that many. I think we only have about five cases -- someone who came from Egypt, took another identity, moved there as a Jew who was moving there. The concern by the Israelis is really much more with Soviet bloc penetration. Well, now there's not a Soviet bloc, but has been with that concern. They've been on the lookout for communist country penetration, always in the belief, and it was a valid one, that the Soviet Union would pass along almost everything it learned to Syria or sometimes to Egypt -- in other words, to Israel's enemies. So they're on the lookout for Soviet agents, and they still are. We have 10,000 and more Soviet Jews moving to Israel every month now that Gorbachev has opened the gates. It's a certain thing that there are spies -- KGB spies -- among them.
LAMB: What's the closest that any Israeli intelligence agent -- I assume a Mossad agent -- has gotten to Yasir Arafat?
MELMAN: Yasir Arafat was, for several years at least, in the early '60s and maybe even early '70s, top on the Israeli agenda. The Israeli intelligence wanted to get him.
LAMB: Assassinate him?
MELMAN: Assassinate him. And I think even we talk about it in our book, even during the war in Lebanon, car bombs exploded near his headquarters.
RAVIV: Aerial bombings seemed to take place only for the reason that he was reported to be in that apartment building.
MELMAN: And they missed him. And he's a great survivor. And he survived endless attempts on his life, not just by Israeli agents; also he has a lot of Arab enemies -- Palestinian extremists such as Abu Nidal; Syrian agents. On the other hand, there is a question -- maybe it's of a more philosophical nature -- which has been discussed by the Israeli intelligence. What good would it do if we kill the head of a terrorist organization? Sometimes maybe it's better to let him live since we can deal with the devil we know rather than with the uncertainties of a replacement. And I think that the approach that is used by the Israeli intelligence is that when you are dealing with small, tiny terrorist organizations, organizations which are dependent heavily on the leader -- it's like small gangs -- then maybe if you kill the leader, you destroy the organization. But when it comes to larger groups, like the one that is led by Yasir Arafat, it won't do any good by killing the leader.
LAMB: Dan Raviv, what's this picture?
RAVIV: It's the other hand. There always is another hand in this business. It's a picture of a villa in Tunisia, near the capital, Tunis, where a Mossad team with special Israeli commandos landed from the sea just over two years ago and killed Abu Jihad, the number-two man in the PLO. You see, that's the "on the other hand." It wouldn't do any good to kill Yasir Arafat, so the thinking goes, "But to remind the PLO of who's really in charge or the long reach of the Mossad," in April '88, one of the men who was organizing the Palestinian uprising was killed at his home, in that villa, in Tunisia.
LAMB: Dhulla-ghamoni -- we've heard this name recently. There has been another book out on Pan Am 103. Here's a picture -- it's a strange looking picture, though. Yossi, explain why it doesn't look normal.
MELMAN: Because this picture was taken by hidden camera. A photograph of Dhulla-Ghamoni by ...
LAMB: Which one is he?
RAVIV: The one on the right.
MELMAN: Yes. This is Dhulla-Ghamoni, the notorious Dhulla-Ghamoni. It was taken by West German agents trained -- shadowing him when he was in Germany planning his attack on Pan Am.
RAVIV: How it belongs in this book -- because the Germans were on to the so-called Dhulla-Ghamoni sell part of the PFLP general command -- a Palestinian terrorist group based in Syria. They were on to him thanks to Israeli tips. The Israelis were also watching the cell, wondering what they were up to. The conclusion reached: they wanted to blow up an aircraft but they thought another aircraft, a flight from Spain to Israel was the target. So they felt very pleased when the terror cell -- or most of the members were arrested in October of '88 and that flight was safe. But two months later the Germans had allowed most of the alleged terrorists out and two months later Pan Am 103 blew up.
LAMB: General question. What have we not covered in here that you think the audience that will read this book will find fascinating? What elements of the book?
MELMAN: I was surprised to find out what I would call the humanitarian side of the Israel intelligence. And that's what maybe makes these humanitrians so unique and so special. There was a special unit in Israel in charge of immigration. Try to imagine the CIA or a British MI6 are involved in that kind of work. Since Israel is the state of the Jewish people, so is the Israeli intelligence -- the Jewish intelligence, and he's trying to bring over Jews from countries like Iran, from some Arab countries, which don't allow them to emigrate. And this is a fascinating story. It's a very heroic story. Israeli agents are ready to go to the most obscure places and dangerous places in the world to bring over their Jewish brethren.
LAMB: And what about the history? A lot of the history of the Mossad and the Aman and all that stuff -- what did you find in the history of the organizations that you found particularly interesting?
RAVIV: Lessons that were learned and should have been learned in the early years. We start in 1948 with the birth of the state. We haven't discussed the title, "Every Spy a Prince," the notion that God told Moses to choose the first spies 32 centuries ago to go into the land of Israel. "Choose them from every tribe, every one of them a prince." They were supposed to be the elite ...
LAMB: Who's this fellow right here?
RAVIV: And the idea of the history -- in the upper left, Reuven Shiloah, the first prince of intelligence. What a dedicated man. Mr. Intelligence, the founder of the Mossad, Reuven Shiloah, almost unknown. And there in the upper right, if it's in the picture as well, is Isser Harel. He is known because he's written books on this subject. He was the head of Israeli intelligence for 10 years.
MELMAN: He was the imperial emperor of the Israeli intelligence.
RAVIV: I agree. An emperor and he made it into an empire. And there in the lower left Shaul Avignor, one of the founders of Israeli intelligence, interested in what Yossi just mentioned.
MELMAN: He was in charge of that unit called, revealed for the first time in our book, Liaison Bureau, in charge of bringing over Jews from the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries.
LAMB: In all the book -- maybe this isn't a fair question -- who's your favorite intelligence operative over the years that you wrote about?
RAVIV: How fascinating.
MELMAN: It's hard to say.
RAVIV: I guess as a professional fence-sitter, I don't have a biding affection necessarily. You admire Elie Cohen for his ability to penetrate Syria, but then he went too far, kept transmitting on the Morse code key, got caught, got hanged and you think, "That was dumb." You admire Wolfgang Lotze for doing it in Egypt and maybe admire him more because he got away with it.
LAMB: The Champagne Spy?
RAVIV: That's what he called himself.
RAVIV: Well, they remember him at Mossad headquarters, especially, because of his expense accounts. Lots of champagne but lots of Egyptian officials loved him.
LAMB: Who do you remember?
MELMAN: I think that Reuven Shiloah was a very interesting person. He tried to maybe imitate -- to build Israeli intelligence from scratch. Build it -- to model it on the British example; to bring British spy espionage craft into the Israeli society. And he was laying down all the fundamental details, which later became so obvious, so identified with Israeli intelligence.
RAVIV: He had the imagination that Israel should negotiate with Arabs.
LAMB: Last question -- we are out of time. This book is dedicated to Dory, Jonathan and Emma. Who are they?
RAVIV: My wife, my two kids.
LAMB: And to Billy and Jotham.
MELMAN: My wife and my kid.
LAMB: The name of the book is "Every Spy a Prince: The Complete History of Israel's Intelligence Community." Our two guests have been Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman. Thank you, gentlemen, both for joining us. And to our audience, have a good evening.
RAVIV: Thank you.
MELMAN: Thank you.
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