When going undercover meant sleeping with Arafat’s wife

Writer offered to extract pillow-talk secrets


In 2004, during the Second Intifada, Israeli intelligence officers invited two journalists to a cafe to discuss corruption stories involving Yassir Arafat, with a view to smearing the then-Palestinian Authority leader.

As the conversations got going, a third, uninvited journalist dropped in to the café on a tip-off that the meeting was taking place.

Excited by the possibility of taking part in Mossad psychological warfare, he offered to pose as a foreign writer who would seduce and sleep with Afarat's wife, Suha, in order to extract secrets from her.

Although Mossad declined this particular offer, this tale of espionage-sleaze is just one of many James Bond-worthy episodes in Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel's Secret Wars, a colourful new history of the history of the intelligence agency by journalists Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman.

The book was a "pure journalistic endeavour", says Mr Melman. "I didn't have to swear allegiance to any intelligence agency," he says, although the book had to be submitted to Israel's military censorship authority.

Spy-glamour aside, Spies Against Armageddon has a serious aim: to dispel myths about Mossad, the spy agency that inspires the greatest number of conspiracy theories in the world.

On the Munich Olympics murders in 1972, the widely-held view, as disseminated by books and at least two films, was that Mossad embarked on a global vengeance mission against those who carried out the attacks.

The book argues that Mossad targeted Palestinian cells not as revenge but as part of long-term strategy to disrupt the PLO terror infrastructure in Europe.

The proof of this, Mr Melman says, was that two of those assassinated post-Munich were only indirectly involved in the Olympic attack. They were, however, key players involved in ongoing operations against Israel.

"Most of Mossad's work is in intelligence gathering. Only five per cent are special assignments, and very few of those involve killing," Mr Melman says.

A case in point was Wolfgang Lotz, who joined Mossad in the early 1960s and was one of the agency's true 007s. He almost certainly assassinated no-one - his skill was in using his "convivial nature" and "passion for women and wine" to work his way into Egyptian high society and extract defence secrets from generals. Using a tiny radio hidden in a riding boot, he telegraphed reports to Tel Aviv.

As John le Carré noted, the best spooks do not kill their enemies - they make friends with them.

Last updated: 12:45pm, August 17 2012