Mossad spy and founding father David Kimche dies

The former spy and Israeli diplomat, British-born David Kimche has died aged 82.

By Jessica Elgot, March 9, 2010
David Kimche

David Kimche

The former leading Mossad agent and diplomat David Kimche has died aged 82.

Born in London, Mr Kimche made aliyah aged 18 and fought in the War of Independence before joining Mossad in the early 1950s.

He became one of the organisation’s leading figures, helping to formulate its mission statement. He also founded Mossad’s research department.

He recruited and directed agents for the intelligence agency, which infiltrated Arab countries, and spent time undercover in Africa, posing as a journalist, in the late 1960s. He later became deputy head of Mossad.

He was involved in the organisation of “Operation Wrath of God” where Mossad agents set out to eliminate all the Black September Palestinian terrorists who killed 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Mr Kimche said of the operation: “"The aim was not so much revenge but mainly to make them frightened.

“We wanted to make them look over their shoulders and feel that we are upon them. And therefore we tried not to do things by just shooting a guy in the street – that’s easy.”

In 1975 Mr Kimche gave UK passport officials a fright, when he applied to renew his British passport. It was at the height of a scandal over a Mossad agent who used a British passport when he travelled to kill a man in Sweden, whom he mistook for a Palestinian terrorist.

A Mr S Weir noted in government archives: “This is really extraordinary. At the same time as the minister of state is about to protest to the Israeli embassy over the misuse of British passports for Israeli intelligence operations, we are apparently contemplating issuing a British passport to the man who may have been in charge of the operation complained of!”

By the 1980s, Mr Kimche was director-general of the Foreign Ministry under Yitzhak Shamir. Before his death, he served as president of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, which he founded.

Despite living in Israel for more than 60 years, Mr Kimche always spoke Hebrew with a soft English accent. He died after a year-long battle with brain cancer.

Paying tribute, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said: “He fulfilled a host of essential duties for the state, the security community, and the foreign service, with great talent and dedication. At our many meetings he brilliantly analysed the international scene.

“Dave was a combination of elegance and patriotism, intelligence and fellowship, and was an excellent example of a public servant.”

WJC President Ronald S. Lauder said: "David Kimche deeply believed that the Jews of the Diaspora had an important role to play in fostering Israel's relations with the wider world, particularly in countries with which Israel does not have formal ties. He saw in the World Jewish Congress an extraordinary bridge between Israel and the Jewish people.

"Although David Kimche was a towering figure, he will also be remembered for his modesty, kindness, good humor and graceful demeanor. May his memory be a blessing and may he continue to inspire future generations."

Last updated: 11:18am, March 10 2010