Death of an Israeli Spymaster: Former Mossad Director Yitzhak Hofi was 87

A former chief of the Israeli foreign espionage agency, the Mossad, has died.   Yitzhak Hofi, a retired general, was 87 and had varied health problems.

YItzhak Hofi, mossad, spies against armageddon

Yitzhak Hofi, as an officer in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces)

Hofi was head of the Mossad from 1974 to 1982, a period between two major wars: the 1973 Yom Kippur War (which took Israel by surprise, although General Hofi had been one of the few who warned that war could be coming) and the Lebanon war of 1982 (which ensnared the Mossad and all of Israel in a long military occupation and complex secret connections with Arab factions).

As head of the Mossad, he scored several notable achievements.  Obituaries are praising him for his role in rescuing hijacked airline passengers from far-off Entebbe, Uganda, in July 1976 — because the daring mission by army commandoes was preceded by Israeli spies surveilling the area and gathering all possible information about the Entebbe airport, the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and his soldiers, and the German and Palestinian hijackers who held more than a hundred hostages.

In addition (as chronicled in our books, Every Spy a Prince (1990) and Spies Against Armageddon (2014)):

1. As Mossad chief, Hofi led a covert sabotage campaign against the nuclear ambitions of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. Israeli operatives killed scientists and damaged equipment that was about to be shipped from Europe to Iraq.

2. Hofi conducted secret peace talks with Egypt, which led to the historic visit to Israel by Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat in 1977 and then an American-mediated peace treaty in 1979.

Official photo of the retired Yitzhak "Haka" Hofi (Mossad chief 1974-1982)

Official photo of the retired Yitzhak “Haka” Hofi (Mossad chief 1974-1982)

3. Hofi arranged a dramatic rescue: the complex airlift of Ethiopian Jews, many of whom struggled to walk long distances to air strips in a neighboring country in complete secrecy. America’s CIA helped at several junctures.

4. Hofi’s Mossad had an important role in continuing a struggle against Palestinian terrorism, although the frustration of the PLO’s Yasser Arafat commanding a large force in neighboring Lebanon was eventually deemed by the Israelis to be intolerant — and the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 was the result.  That involvement, with many tragic mistakes and attempts to manipulate alliances with Lebanese factions, continued for eighteen years until Israeli forces withdrew.

Before he was appointed as Israel’s spymaster, General Hofi earned high praise — as Commander of the Northern Front — for being one of the few Israelis who took seriously the possibility that Syria might invade the Golan Heights (captured by Israel in 1967) and northern Israel. His instincts and observations led him to see that a war in 1973 could be near.

Israel’s Military Intelligence agency (Aman) emphatically rejected the possibility that Egypt or Syria might invade.

September 15, 2014

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