Israeli spymaster Rafi Eitan has died in Tel Aviv. He was 92. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement on his passing calling him a “beloved person” and “hero of the Israeli intelligence community,” reports Times of Israel.
“The first impression one gets on meeting legendary spymaster Rafi Eitan face to face is how tiny he is,” wrote Patricia Golan for The Jerusalem Post in 2015, adding “the multimillionaire with vast business interests in Cuba and Africa who, at 88, still whispers into the ears of decision makers in Israel and around the world – looks exactly like the adorable cartoon character Mr. Magoo – perpetual happy grin, oversized Coke-bottle-thick glasses and all.”
But the spymaster’s life was nothing short of extraordinary nonfiction.
Eitan was born in the kibbutz, or Israeli collective community, of Ein Harod in British-ruled Palestine. His parents were Zionist who had immigrated from Russia. He earned a BSc in Economics at London School of Economics before serving in the Palmach arm of the paramilitary Haganah organization, what would later become the Israeli army, before joining Mossad in the 1950s.
Eitan Headed the Capture of Nazi Adolf Eichmann in 1960
Eitan headed the search and capture of Adolf Eichmann, one of the head organizers of the Holocaust, in Argentina in May 1960. Eitan and his team kidnapped Eichmann and took him to Jerusalem where he was hanged for war crimes in 1962.
Zvi Malchin jumped on Clement, whose real name was Adolf Eichmann, and knocked him into the ditch, with Eitan and another Mossad agent behind him. Clement was overpowered in seconds and thrown into the back of the car. Eitan began searching for signs to prove beyond doubt that he was really the infamous architect of the Holocaust: the scar in the armpit, the incision marks from an appendectomy. – Ronen Bergman
This historic mission is the tip of the iceberg of Eitan’s career accomplishments, many of which remain unknown to the public.
In the 1970s Eitan left intelligence, raising tropical fish and taking on other agricultural business ventures. In 1978 Israel called him back to be then Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s advisor on terrorism. In 1987 he became head of Israel Chemicals Corporation and retired in 1993 at the age of 67.
Eitan was an avid sculpture all his life. In his seventies, he became a politician. He established the Pensioners Affairs Ministry and advocated for seniors, setting up a hotline for the elderly manned 24/7 by volunteers.
“‘I had a heart operation a year ago, I can’t see anything and I can’t hear anything, but I run every morning, I sculpt and my wife says I’m doing well,’ Eitan said on becoming a lawmaker at age 79,” reports The Times of Israel.
A Real Life 007
In the 1980s, Eitan served as an advisor to Margaret Thatcher’s MI6 on counterterrorism operations in Northern Ireland.
“He played important roles in the strike on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, the theft in the late 1960s of at least 100 pounds of highly enriched uranium from a nuclear fuel plant in the Pittsburgh area that helped Israel’s atomic bomb programme, and the assassinations of the Palestinian commandos who carried out the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972,” reports The Irish Times.
Eitan was nicknamed “Rafi the Stinker” after he fell into a sewer during a military operation prior to the establishment of Israel in 1948.