(Literary Masterpieces, Critical Compilation)

Among most Americans, there is a relatively high degree of interest in the State of Israel. Virtually every American has strong feelings (not all of them positive) about this tiny Judaic enclave nestled amid a host of hostile Arab neighbors on the eastern shoreline of the Mediterranean. Perhaps the memories of the Holocaust contribute to that interest. Perhaps, too, because the United States government has had a long-standing relationship with this post-World War II state and has contributed significantly to its political health both by means of foreign aid and military sales, citizens of the United States have been avid collectors of information about Israel’s way of life, its political maneuverings, its military struggles, and—not surprisingly—its undercover activities.

Several much-publicized successes in clandestine operations have helped focus attention on at least one Israeli agency, the Mossad. This group, a shadowy organization somewhat comparable to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, known to use violence and even assassination as a means to collect information about Israel’s enemies or to eliminate threats to the state’s existence, is usually given credit for gaining revenge against the perpetrators of the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, and for carrying out the daring rescue of hostages aboard a hijacked airplane on the runway of the airport at Entebbe, Uganda, in 1976. Its uncanny ability to locate members of the Palestinian underground and to render swift (if vigilante) justice has earned for the Mossad a reputation as a highly effective, ruthless arm of a state that finds itself continually fighting for its existence.

Few people outside Israel, however, are familiar with the entire range of Israel’s intelligence activities. Tracing their ancestry back to turn-of-the-century homeland defense agencies and to the underground agency Haganah, which played a role in liberating Israel from British rule at the end of World War II, dozens of organizations have at one time or another been engaged in secret activities in behalf of the Jewish state. In 1990, the Mossad found itself only one of three principal agencies operating under government sanction. Aman, the military intelligence agency, operates principally within Israel’s borders, though it has played an increasing role in activities within the occupied territories around Israel and in some out-of- country ventures. For some years, a third, even more secretive agency known as Lakam has managed scientific projects to be used to protect the homeland. The history of this third arm of Israeli intelligence is told for the first time to the public in Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman’s collaboration Every Spy a Prince: The Complete History of Israel’s Intelligence Community.

Taking their title from an Old Testament injunction given by God to Moses to send spies into the land of Canaan, Raviv and Melman explore the entire range of intelligence operations on which the State of Israel has depended to guarantee safety for its citizens and to repel attacks from neighboring states or terrorist organizations bent on destroying this latecomer to the Mediterranean basin. The Mossad’s activities during and after the Munich debacle and its raid at Entebbe are but two of the many exciting, hair-raising escapades related in this extensive review of Israel’s forty-year battle against a host of neighbors both close and afar. Every Spy a Prince is an encyclopedia of the state’s intelligence operatives, leaders, and major actions since 1948. In its pages, Raviv and Melman attempt to penetrate the screen of mystery that has stood between the public (even the Israeli public) and the dedicated men and women who have sworn their lives to the state—and who, on occasion, have had to pay with their lives for that state’s continued health.

Raviv and Melman...

(The entire section is 1586 words.)