Monday, July 30, 2018

Harari. Michael Harari

Most people have never heard the name Michael “Mike” Harari. Given his vocation, he probably would approve of his anonymity.

Born in Tel Aviv, Michael Harari (1927-2014), enlisted in the Haganah at age 13, and three years later, in 1943, he joined the elite Palmach force. After Israel’s independence in 1948, Michael served in the Israel Defense Forces and its Shin Bet internal security service. In the 1960s, he was recruited by Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad, eventually being promoted to the head of the Caesarea Department, which placed undercover agents abroad. He founded the Mossad’s Operations branch, the Kidon unit.

Harari was very involved with Operation Wrath of God, whose goal was to avenge the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany, at the hands of a terrorist group known as “Black September.” Unfortunately, the Israeli agents, looking to assassinate Ali Hassan Salameh, the chief of Black September in Lillehammer, Norway, accidentally shot an innocent waiter who resembled Salameh. Harari and Mossad director Zvi Zamir offered Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir their resignations, which she refused. (A Norwegian case against Harari was dropped in 1999 due to lack of evidence.)

In 1979, Harari led a team that successfully eliminated Salameh in Beirut. Harari  also played a major role in Israel’s rescue of hostages at Uganda’s Entebbe Airport. Posing as an Italian businessman, he helped provide maps of the airport to Israel’s commandos. He also helped facilitate refueling in Kenya after the successful military operation.

Harari eventually became the Mossad station chief for Latin America and lived in Panama for many years until the US arrest of Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega.

Harari received the Mossad Chief’s Medal of Distinction in 2007 and the Israel Defense Prize Committee’s Medal of Distinction. He cooperated in the writing of his Hebrew biography, entitled Ish Hamivtza’im (the Man of Operations), written by Aaron J. Klein in 2014.

Michael Harari died at his home in Israel on September 21, 2014 at the age of 87. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Harari, “one of the great warriors for Israel’s security.”

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