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Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations

Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations

by Ronen Bergman


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The first definitive history of the Mossad, Shin Bet, and the IDF’s targeted killing programs, from the man hailed by David Remnick as “arguably [Israel’s] best investigative reporter”

The Talmud says: “If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.” This instinct to take every measure, even the most aggressive, to defend the Jewish people is hardwired into Israel’s DNA. From the very beginning of its statehood in 1948, protecting the nation from harm has been the responsibility of its intelligence community and armed services, and there is one weapon in their vast arsenal that they have relied upon to thwart the most serious threats: Targeted assassinations have been used countless times, on enemies large and small, sometimes in response to attacks against the Israeli people and sometimes preemptively. In this page-turning, eye-opening book, journalist and military analyst Ronen Bergman offers a riveting inside account of the targeted killing programs—their successes, their failures, and the moral and political price exacted on the men and women who approved and carried out the missions.

Bergman has gained the exceedingly rare cooperation of many current and former members of the Israeli government, including Prime Ministers Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, and Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as high-level figures in the country’s military and intelligence services: the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), the Mossad (the world’s most feared intelligence agency), Caesarea (a “Mossad within the Mossad” that carries out attacks on the highest-value targets), and the Shin Bet (an internal security service that implemented the largest targeted assassination campaign ever, in order to stop what had once appeared to be unstoppable: suicide terrorism).

Including never-before-reported, behind-the-curtain accounts of key operations, and based on hundreds of on-the-record interviews and thousands of files to which Bergman has gotten exclusive access over his decades of reporting, Rise and Kill First brings us deep into the heart of Israel’s most secret activities. Bergman traces, from statehood to the present, the gripping events and thorny ethical questions underlying Israel’s targeted killing campaign, which has shaped the Israeli nation, the Middle East, and the entire world.

“This is an astonishing book on targeted assassination in the name of the state. Tremendous reporting and writing make Rise and Kill First the definitive work on a secret and ceaseless war.”—Tim Weiner, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author of Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400069712
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/30/2018
Pages: 784
Sales rank: 265,722
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Ronen Bergman is the senior correspondent for military and intelligence affairs for Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s largest daily paid newspaper, and a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, where he reports on intelligence, national security, terrorism, and nuclear issues. Bergman is the author of five bestselling Hebrew-language nonfiction books and The Secret War with Iran, which was published in the United States by Free Press. Bergman is the recipient of the Sokolow Prize, Israel’s most esteemed award for journalism, and the B’nai B’rith International Press Award, among other honors. A member of the Israeli bar, he graduated with honors from the University of Haifa Faculty of Law and clerked in the attorney general’s office. A winner of a Chevening Scholarship from the British Foreign Office, he received a master’s in international relations from Cambridge University, where he was also awarded his PhD in history.

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Chapter 1

Excerpted from "Rise and Kill First"
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Copyright © 2018 Ronen Bergman.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
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Table of Contents

A Note on the Sources xiii

Prologue xvii

1 In Blood and Fire 3

2 A Secret World is Born 21

3 The Bureau for Arranging Meetings with God 39

4 The Entire Supreme Command, with One Blow 52

5 "As if the Sky Were Falling on Our Heads" 61

6 A Series of Catastrophes 86

7 "Armed Struggle is the Only Way to Liberate Palestine" 105

8 Meir Dagan and his Expertise 121

9 The Plo Goes International 136

10 "I Have No Problem with Anyone That I've Killed" 154

11 "Wrong Identification of a Target is not a Failure. It's a Mistake." 175

12 Hubris 186

13 Death in the Toothpaste 208

14 A Pack of Wild Dogs 225

15 "Abu Nidal, Abu Shmidal" 248

16 Black Flag 262

17 The Shin Bet Coup 277

18 Then Came a Spark 297

19 Intifada 324

20 Nebuchadnezzar 343

21 Green Storm Rising 362

22 The Age of the Drone 382

23 Mughniyeh's Revenge 398

24 'Just One Switch, Off and On" 409

25 "Bring us the Head of Ayyash" 424

26 "Sly as a Snake, Naïve as a Little Child" 445

27 A Low Point 467

28 All-Out War 483

29 "More Suicide Bombers Than Explosive Vests" 498

30 "The Target has been Eliminated, But the Operation Failed" 516

31 The Rebellion in Unit 8200 529

32 Picking Anemones 541

33 The Radical Front 566

34 Killing Maurice 588

35 Impressive Tactical Success, Disastrous Strategic Failure 610

Acknowledgments 633

Notes 637

Bibliography 715

Index 727

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