Reviews by Readers of ‘Spies Against Armageddon’ — Israeli Espionage & Security Agencies at Center of Multiple Crises

Here are some reviews at by readers who bought (and, we trust, read) Spies Against Armageddon — a history of Israeli security and espionage agencies, from the authors of the best seller Every Spy a Prince.

(5 stars out of 5)

Comprehensive and thrilling account of history of Mossad, July 9, 2012

This detailed and exciting account of the history of the Israeli secret services, including the Mossad, the Shin Beth and others less well-known to the public, should be required reading for anyone interested in the history and politics of the Middle East. It is even more relevant because its opening chapter deals with the ongoing Iranian nuclear crisis and Israel’s clandestine efforts to derail and delay the Iranian nuclear program.

The book clearly benefited from detailed interviews the authors conducted with leading players, some now deceased. The authors themselves are a winning team of a well-known Israeli reporter and a veteran American correspondent (full disclosure, I was a reporter in Israel for several years in the 1980s and knew one of the authors quite well.)

Starting with the founding of Israel in 1948, the book runs through some well-known episodes such as the kidnapping of Adolf Eichmann from Argentina to stand trial in Jerusalem. But there are many other vignettes that were unknown to me — and I consider myself something of a professional student on Middle Eastern history. There is a comprehensive account of how Israel built its own nuclear program with help from France and others. The story of how Israel managed to persuade an Egyptian Air Force pilot to defect, bringing with him his top secret Soviet plane, could be the subject of a fantastic movie all by itself. Thus, Israel became the first Western nation to acquire a Soviet MiG-21 and it was a treasure trove for U.S. intelligence.

In another chapter, the authors describe Israel’s success in protecting its civilian aircraft from hijackers and bombers — and America’s refusal to imitate some of the Israeli techniques despite repeated warnings. Had our leaders listened, we may have averted 9/11.

The authors show that contrary to popular opinion, the Mossad has generally been reluctant to kill its adversaries. It preferred to threaten and deter them if possible, with assassination a last resort. But they state unequivocally that Israel has been behind the murders of several Iranian nuclear scientists in recent years.

There is also a vivid and full account of the decision to destroy a Syrian nuclear plant in 2007. I had no idea before reading this account how close the Syrians were to developing a weapon. Their graphite reactor would have gone operational and started to produce plutonium within weeks had the Israelis not taken it out in September 2007.

The Mossad and especially the Shin Beth are not perfect. They have made major blunders — such as failing to anticipate the start of the Yom Kippur War. The Shin Beth fell victim to excessive brutality against Palestinians in the territories and mishandled the two Intifadahs. Israel has made strategic decisions, such as invading Lebanon in 1982, that produced short-term success and longer-term disaster.

But what comes across to me most vividly in this book is the resourcefulness, courage and sheer inventiveness the men and women of these services have so often displayed. Israel is still at war, surrounded by enemies who wish to destroy it. These secret services are on the front lines. Often, what they do averts greater threats through their ingenuity.

Since its early days, Israel has developed a doctrine of not relying on others for the defense of the nation. This doctrine comes out of the painful lessons learned during the Holocaust. But the Iranian crisis is testing many long-held beliefs and assumptions, confronting policy-makers and especially the Prime Minister, with one of the most agonizing decisions any Israeli leader has ever faced.

This book will make readers more aware of the stakes, the opportunities and the dangers.

(5 stars out of 5)

History that reads like a thriller!, July 24, 2012

By David M. Sherman “literarygarden” (New York) – See all my reviews

This is the way history ought to be written; exciting, well researched, brilliantly organized, and accessible to the general public. Other reviews have provided a detailed summary of the book. Be assured that you will not be overwhelmed with the details but intrigued by the events. I highly recommend this book for content and an intriguing peak into the world of spying. The authors should be praised for their willingness not only to provide a cogent history of Israeli spying, but to make critical judgments about the events that are so complex and controversial. Wonderful book….

(5 stars out of 5)

Melman and Raviv, superb as always, June 25, 2013

Once again, Yossi Melman and Dan Raviv have written a consummate and fascinating work on Israeli Intelligence. This book might be regarded as the companion piece to their New York Times best seller, “Every Spy a Prince,” and its carefully crafted history and new revelations continue to enthrall and thrill.

Unlike many other investigative journalists who delve into this subject, Melman and Raviv are not “speculators,” and have been working this ground for decades, balancing their carefully-earned contacts deep within Israeli Intelligence with great care not to reveal too much. However, each chapter brings a new surprise, such as the details of Israel’s assault on Syria’s nuclear bomb factory, and the subsequent assassination of Assad’s nuclear architect, General Suleiman. No one else writes about Israel’s intelligence community with such elegance and authority. For anyone interested in the subject, this book’s not to be missed. Even the end notes are gripping.

August 22, 2013

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