Removing the Mask From Israel’s Famed Mossad Spy Agency

In recent times, the top brass at the Mossad and their agents have become guests of honor on television news broadcasts, investigative shows and documentary programs. These include veteran investigative journalist Ilana Dayan’s long interview last year with former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, Alon Ben David’s Channel 13 program on the intelligence agency, and a series of episodes as part of the Kan public broadcaster’s “Zman Emet” (“Real Time”), which tried to dispel the fog surrounding several of the organization’s operations.

To this list we can add Channel 8’s documentary mini-series, “Inside the Mossad” by Zadok (Duki) Dror, which was sold to Netflix and centers around a Mossad agent, his clandestine misdeeds and tortured soul; the recent Netflix series “Eli,” which focused on Eli Cohen, who spied for Israel in Syria; and the popular Channel 12 program “Kfulim” (“False Flag”), which during its two seasons scattered a little more fairy dust over the familiar mixture: false identities, beautiful women and an aura of mystery.

The latest addition is “Le’einav Bilvad” (“For His Eyes Only: The Politics of the Mossad”), created by filmmaker Amit Goren and veteran defense commentator Amir Oren (formerly of Haaretz), which has aired locally on Yes Docu, is now available on Yes VOD and will be streamed next year by Netflix. This three-episode documentary-historical series trains a spotlight on the built-in tension that has prevailed throughout the generations between Mossad’s chiefs and Israel’s prime ministers.

For example, the series links the post-war reparations agreement between Israel and Germany, which aroused powerful opposition in Israel, to then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s decision to catch Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. It also connects the decision to recruit Yitzhak Shamir and other leading members of the pre-state Lehi and Etzel undergrounds to the Mossad with the attempt to quash a possible political rebellion during those tense years.

Goren, who has made dozens of documentaries and now heads the Makor Foundation, which supports productions of documentaries and short films, suggests that Pardo (head of the Mossad from 2011 to 2016) was the one responsible to some extent for opening the gates of the Mossad to the public. Pardo initiated the launch of an official Mossad website and for the first time allowed the media to conduct interviews with agents who spoke about their activities without concealing their faces. Goren was also able to avail himself of this window of opportunity, in 2014, when producing “Lo Tishkot Ha’aretz” (“The Avoidable War”), about the failures of the 1973 Yom Kippur War; subsequently, he began work on the new documentary, “Le’einav Bilvad.”

Benjamin Netanyahu and ex-Mossad chief Tamir Pardo.Courtesy of Yes Docu

The Mossad approved a considerable number of interviews for it – but in the middle of production Goren’s wife, curator Sarit Shapira, succumbed to cancer and, as a widower and father of three, Goren was forced to freeze his work and reorganize his life.

“To a certain extent we were left behind,” he tells Haaretz, about the timing of the series. “When Sarit became ill I had to put it on hold. When we went back to working on it, we discovered that the programs that had aired in the interim were mainly about operations and achievements, about the mysterious Mossad agent. We were more interested in knowing who the Mossad agents are and about the system of relationships within which they operate. To look at something that hasn’t been examined until now.”