Based on 1,000 interviews and thousands of documents, Rise and Kill First alleges that Israel has used assassinations in place of war in situations another nation may have resorted to launching a military attack against an adversary. While the book notes that many of these operations have failed, the number of attempts allegedly adds up to far more than those of any other western nation.
Author Ronan Bergman, the intelligence correspondent for Yediot Aharanot newspaper, reportedly persuaded many Mossad and Shin Bet agents, as well as military personnel, to tell him their stories. According to the National Post’s assessment, Israel’s assassination techniques involve the use of the following:
“Poisoned toothpaste that takes a month to end its target’s life. Armed drones. Exploding cell phones. Spare tires with remote-control bombs. Assassinating enemy scientists and discovering the secret lovers of Islamic holy men.”
The book alleges that Israel was behind the assassinations of around half a dozen Iranian nuclear scientists, killings apparently more preferable to Israel than a direct strike on Iran. The book also appears to claim that Israel used radiation poisoning to kill longtime Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. According to Bergman, Israeli military censorship prevented him from revealing what, if anything, he knows about the specific incident.
One of the most famous examples of an Israeli assassination gone wrong is that of Palestinian political leader Khalid Mashal. In September 1997, Mashal was reportedly targeted for assassination by Mossad agents after they received the order from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his security cabinet. Using fake Canadian passports, the Israeli agents entered Jordan through Amsterdam and waited at the entrance of Mashal’s office in Amman. Once he arrived, one of the agents allegedly struck the Palestinian leader with a device that sprayed poison, only for the agents involved to be immediately captured by a bodyguard not long after.
Having captured the Mossad agents, Jordan’s king demanded that Netanyahu send the antidote over to treat Mashal. Netanyahu refused. With Bill Clinton’s intervention – overt humanitarian that he is – the antidote was provided and reportedly helped save Mashals life.
The National Post also makes note of another incident in which Israeli agents killed the wrong person after an attack that killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
More horrifying for the American reader, however, is that according to Bergman, Israel’s lust for assassination helped lay the foundation for the post 9/11 policies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
“The command-and-control systems, the war rooms, the methods of information gathering and the technology of the pilotless aircraft, or drones, that now serve the Americans and their allies were all in large part developed in Israel,” Bergman wrote.
According to the National Post, Israeli secret services still sought to interfere with the research for Bergman’s book, warning former Mossad employees not to speak to him. However, despite the warnings, Bergman was still able to speak with former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert. The author was also able to meet with Meir Dagan, the former head of Mossad who died in early 2016.
To give a taste of the Israeli secret service mindset, Bergman quotes Dagan as saying:
“In a car, there are 25,000 parts on average. Imagine if 100 of them are missing. It would be very hard to make it go. On the other hand, sometimes it’s most effective to kill the driver, and that’s that.” [emphasis added]
In his book, Bergman questions the legality of these strategies but doesn’t go so far as to condemn them, indicating that these techniques do achieve their stated aims.