The Israel Security Agency (ISA, Hebrew: שירות הביטחון הכללי Sherut ha-Bitaẖon haKlali "the General Security Service"; Arabic: جهاز الأمن العام), better known by the acronym Shabak (Hebrew: שב״כ, IPA: [ʃaˈbak] (listen), Arabic: شاباك) or the Shin Bet (a two-letter Hebrew abbreviation of "Security Service"), is Israel's internal security service. Its motto is "Magen veLo Yera'e" (מגן ולא יראה, lit. "Defender that shall not be seen" or "The unseen shield").
|Israel Security Agency|
שירות הביטחון הכללי
Sherut haBitaẖon haKlali, General Security Service
جهاز الأمن العام
Emblem of the Shabak
|Abbreviation||English: ISA, Local: Shabak - Hebrew: שב״כ, Arabic: شاباك|
|Motto||מגן ולא יראה|
Magen veLo Yera'e
The Defender that shall not be seen or The unseen shield
|Formed||February 8, 1949|
|Governing body||Prime Minister of Israel|
Shabak is believed to have three operational wings:
The counter-terrorist unit Yamas is directly subordinate to Shin Bet.
Shabak's duties are safeguarding state security, exposing terrorist rings, interrogating terror suspects, providing intelligence for counter-terrorism operations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, counter-espionage, personal protection of senior public officials, securing important infrastructure and government buildings, and safeguarding Israeli airlines and overseas embassies.
With the Israeli declaration of independence in 1948, the Shabak was founded as a branch of the Israel Defense Forces and was initially headed by Isser Harel (the father of Israeli Intelligence, who later headed the Mossad). Responsibility for Shabak activity was later moved from the IDF to the office of the prime minister. During the 1948 Arab–Israeli war, Shabak's responsibilities included only internal security affairs. In February 1949 (a short while before the end of the war), its responsibilities were extended to counter-espionage.
One of the Shabak's leading successes was obtaining a copy of the secret speech made by Nikita Khrushchev in 1956, in which he denounced Stalin. A Polish edition of the speech was provided to the Israeli embassy in Warsaw by the boyfriend of the secretary of a Polish communist official. The Shabak's Polish liaison officer conveyed the copy to Israel. The Israeli government then decided to share the information with the United States, which published it with Israeli approval. On the other hand, a study published in 2013 by Matitiahu Mayzel casts doubt on the story, arguing that the speech was not secret and that it was conveyed to the West by multiple sources, including Soviet political and intelligence agencies.
A notable achievement in counter-espionage was the 1961 capture of Israel Beer, who was revealed to be a Soviet spy. Beer was a Lieutenant Colonel in the reserves, a senior security commentator and close friend of Ben-Gurion and reached high Israeli circles. Beer was tried and sentenced to ten years in prison (later extended by the Supreme Court to fifteen years, following his appeal), where he died. A year before, Kurt Sitte, a Christian German from the Sudetenland and a professor in the Technion, was revealed as a Czechoslovakian spy.
In 1967, an Egyptian-Israeli double agent, Rif'at al Gamal/Jacques Bitton, gave Egypt false information about Israel's battle plans, claiming it would begin with ground operations. The Egyptians thus left their aircraft on open runways, which enabled the Israel Air Force to knock out Egypt's air force within three hours of the outbreak of the Six-Day War. Operation Yated, as it was later known, is considered one of the most successful deceptions in Israeli intelligence history, on a par with Britain's Operation Mincemeat during World War II.
After the war, monitoring terrorist activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip become a major part of Shabak's mission. During 1984–1986, Shabak experienced a major crisis following the Kav 300 affair in which four Palestinian militants hijacked a bus. Two of the hijackers were killed in an ensuing standoff, the other two were killed shortly after being taken into custody by Shabak officers, who later covered up the event and conspired to frame a senior IDF officer. Following the affair, Shabak head Avraham Shalom was forced to resign.
The 1987 Landau Commission, set up to investigate Shabak interrogation methods, criticized the organization and established guidelines to regulate what forms of physical pressure could be used on prisoners. Among the practices authorised were "keeping prisoners in excruciatingly uncomfortable postures, covering their heads with filthy and malodorous sacks and depriving them of sleep." Human rights groups in Israel maintained that this amounts to torture. A 1995 official report by Miriam Ben-Porat, made public in 2000, showed that Shin Bet "routinely" went beyond the "moderate physical pressure" authorised by the Landau Commission. In the report, Israel admitted for the first time that Palestinian detainees were tortured during the First Intifada, between 1988 and 1992.
In 1995, the Shin Bet failed to protect the Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by right-wing Israeli radical Yigal Amir. Shin Bet had discovered Amir's plans, and a Shin Bet agent was sent to monitor Amir, and reported that Amir was not a threat. Following the assassination, the Shabak director, Carmi Gillon, resigned preemptively. Later, the Shamgar Commission pointed to serious flaws in the personal security unit. Another source of embarrassment and criticism was the violent, provocative and inciting behavior of Avishai Raviv, an informer of the Shabak's Jewish Unit during the time leading up to the assassination. Later, Raviv was acquitted of the charges that he encouraged Yigal Amir to kill Yitzhak Rabin.
In 2000, Ayalon was replaced by Avi Dichter, an ex-Sayeret Matkal commando and an experienced Shabak agent, tightened the working relationship with the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli police. Dichter was in charge when the al-Aqsa Intifada erupted. He turned Shabak into a prominent player in the war on terrorism after the collapse of the 2000 Camp David Summit.
In May 2005, Dichter was replaced by Yuval Diskin, who served until 2011.
In 2011, Yoram Cohen was chosen as the new head of Shabak, and served until 2016.
In 2016, Nadav Argaman was chosen as new head of Shabak, and assumed office on 8 May 2016.
Former Shin Bet director special assistant Barak Ben-Zur said that since 1948 (or more particularly 1957) the group has been brought under control of the Knesset to monitor its budget. In May 2002, a landmark was set when Shin Bet was brought under the purview of the Knesset Foreign and Security Committee, which could investigate whether it is working within legal boundaries which, in turn, involves the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee is also involved. The government legal adviser approves Shin Bet activities, the Political-Security Cabinet receives reports directly from the Shin Bet director and that every detainee has the right to submit a complaint.
Shabak also extracts information by interrogating suspects, and there is a history of concern over its methods. In 1987, after complaints about excessive use of violence, the Landau Commission drew up guidelines condoning "moderate physical pressure" when necessary, but in 1994, State Comptroller Miriam Ben-Porat found that these regulations were violated and senior GSS commanders did not prevent it.
Later, in 1999, the Israeli Supreme Court heard several petitions against Shabak methods, including (1) "forceful and repeated shaking of the suspect's upper torso, in a manner which causes the neck and head to swing rapidly," (2) manacling of the suspect in a painful "Shabach position" for a long period of time, (3) the "frog crouch" consisting of "consecutive, periodical crouches on the tips of one's toes," and other methods. The Court ruled that Shabak did not have the authority, even under the defense of "necessity," to employ such methods. This ruling was hailed as landmark against using torture on Palestinian prisoners.
Shabak claims it now uses only psychological means, although B'Tselem and Amnesty International continue to accuse Shabak of employing physical methods that amount to torture under international conventions. In 2015, Physicians for Human Rights–Israel noted that petitions against Shin Bet had quadrupled since 2012, and claimed that over the past several years of 850 complaints against Shin Bet for torture none had yet been investigated. It further claimed that no system of legal redress against security organizations is in place.
Shabak has also worked closely with the Israeli Air Force in "targeted killings" of field commanders and senior leaders of Palestinian militant factions of Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and Fatah. These killings are usually done by helicopter gunships. Both the IAF commanders and Shabak agents sit together in the command center to monitor the operations. Shabak's task is to give intelligence about when and where the target will be available for a strike and then to react to IAF drone feedback to ensure the men at the location are indeed the correct targets.
Salah Haj Yihyeh, a Palestinian who runs mobile clinics for Physicians for Human Rights, was detained for questioning by the Shin Bet. In the questioning, Yihyeh answered questions about the activities of the organization, its budget, the identity of its donors, and details about others employed by PHR. The board of Physicians for Human Rights, in a letter to Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, rejected the "crossing of a red line in a democracy." The letter argued that since the only cause for calling an employee of the group was to scare him, the tactics were unacceptable and illegal.
Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer was detained in July 2008 by Shin Bet. Having arrived on a flight from London, Omer says that he was taken aside by a Shin Bet official. According to Democracy Now!, Omer was later questioned, strip-searched, and then beaten by eight armed Shin Bet officers. Injuries from the ordeal allegedly left Mohammed Omer in the hospital for a week. The Israeli government rejected Omer's claims outright, citing inconsistencies in his allegations and noting that such investigations are strictly regulated.
Once considered a commitment to lifelong anonymity and even invisibility in Israeli society, today a Shabak agent who achieves high rank in the service, especially the director, is considered a candidate for membership in the top units of the Israeli government and business community. This process follows a trend started by ex-generals and colonels of the Israel Defense Forces, the trailblazers including Moshe Dayan, Ariel Sharon, and Yitzhak Rabin. In the Shabak and the foreign intelligence Mossad service, the trend showed up much later (during the mid-1990s), even though Isser Harel (who served as head of both services) and Meir Amit of the Mossad both served as lawmakers.
Ex-Shabak directors today are increasingly visible as candidates for higher office. Yaakov Peri became the chairman of Bank HaMizrahi in 2002, and also became a highly visible guest on television programs. Carmi Gillon serves as Chairman of the Local Council of Mevaseret Zion, a Jerusalem suburb, while Avi Dichter and Ami Ayalon were at one time leading candidates for defense minister (Dichter for the Kadima party formed by prime minister Ariel Sharon, Ayalon on the Labour party ticket). Dichter eventually became Minister of Internal Security in the government led by Ehud Olmert. Ayalon has attracted widespread following as a co-initiator with Palestinian dignitary Sari Nusseibeh of the non-governmental Peoples' Voice initiative to petition the governments in Israel and the Palestinian Authority for a permanent settlement.
In 2007, the service launched its first ever public recruitment drive, unveiling a "slick Web site" and buying on-line ads in Israel and abroad in a campaign aimed at "attract[ing] top-tier computer programmers" to its "cutting-edge" IT division. On March 18, 2008, it was announced that Shabak's official website would also offer a blog, where four of its agents would discuss anonymously how they were recruited, and what sort of work they perform; they would also answer questions sent in by members of the public. The decision to launch the blog was made by the Shin Bet's top brass, including head Yuval Diskin, and is part of an attempt to attract high-tech workers to the agency's growing IT department. According to Shabak officers, the Web site and blog are aimed also at promoting a more accessible and positive public image for the secret service, long associated with "dark, undercover and even violent activity".
In 2012, six former heads of the Shabak (Shalom, Peri, Gillon, Ayalon, Dichter, and Diskin) featured in a documentary film, The Gatekeepers, and discussed the main events of their tenures.
Amihai "Ami" Ayalon (Hebrew: עמיחי "עמי" איילון, born 27 June 1945) is an Israeli politician and a former member of the Knesset for the Labor Party. He was previously head of the Shin Bet, Israel's secret service, and commander-in-chief of the Navy. He came in second to Ehud Barak in a Labor party leadership election in June 2007, and was appointed a Minister without Portfolio in September 2007. He is one of the recipients of Israel's highest decoration, the Medal of Valor.Amir Ohana
Amir Ohana (Hebrew: אמיר אוחנה; born 15 March 1976) is an Israeli lawyer, former Shin Bet official and politician who currently serves as a member of the Knesset for Likud. He is the first openly gay right-wing member of the Knesset and the first openly gay man from Likud to serve in the Knesset.Amos Manor
Amos Manor (Hebrew: עמוס מנור; October 8, 1918 – August 5, 2007), born Arthur Mendelowitz, was Director of the Shin Bet, Israel's internal intelligence and security service, from 1953 until 1963.
He was born into a Jewish family in Sighetu Marmației, in Máramaros County, Austria-Hungary (present-day Romania). Following the outbreak of World War II, he was drafted to the Hungarian Army, but in 1944 was deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. In 1947, he joined the Mossad LeAliyah Bet, an organization dedicated to smuggling Jews into Palestine in defiance of British immigration restrictions, becoming secretary of its Romanian branch in Budapest. He served under the alias "Amos", which he later adopted as his first name. He immigrated to Israel in 1949, and joined the Shin Bet a month afterwards.Amos Manor is credited with building up the Shin Bet as a national institution capable of handling the many threats posed to internal Israeli security during that time.
In 1964 Manor began serving on the directorial board of several companies, banks and the stock market. He also worked as a business consultant for various textile firms. He was also a partner in the Atlas hotel management company.
Amos Manor spoke fluent Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Romanian and Hungarian.In the ISA
1949 - appointed department head in the division for non-Arab affairs, and became the first department director for Eastern Europe.
1950 - appointed unit head within the division for non-Arab affairs.
1952 - appointed Deputy ISA Director
1953 - appointed ISA Director
1964 - retired from the ISA.
Following his service in the ISA, and until he died, Manor worked for a Swiss investment company active in Israel, as a consultant to various companies, and served as director of a number of companies. He was the chairman of the board of directors of a number of banks and of the stock exchange and was also a partner in the Atlas company for hotel management.Avi Dichter
Avi Dichter (Hebrew: אבי דיכטר, IPA: [ˈävi ˈdiχte̞ʁ]; born 14 December 1952) is an Israeli politician and the current Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. A former Minister of Internal Security and Shin Bet director, he resigned from the Knesset and left Kadima in August 2012 in order to become Minister of Home Front Defense, a position he vacated in March 2013.Avraham Ahituv
Avraham Ahituv (Hebrew: אברהם אחיטוב; né Gottfried; December 10, 1930 – July 15, 2009) was an Israeli civil servant who served as director of the Shin Bet, Israel's security agency, from 1974 to 1980.Avraham Shalom
Avraham Shalom Bendor (Hebrew: אַבְרָהָם שָׁלוֹם בֵּנְדּוֹר; July 7, 1928 – June 19, 2014) was head of Shin Bet from 1981-1986. He resigned after being accused of ordering the killing of two Palestinian prisoners and organising the subsequent cover-up.Ayman Odeh
Ayman Odeh (Arabic: أيمن عودة, Hebrew: איימן עודה; born 1 January 1975) is an Israeli Arab lawyer and politician. He is a member of the Knesset, and the head of the Arab-dominated Hadash party.Bus 300 affair
The Bus 300 affair (Hebrew: פרשת קו 300 Translit.: Parashat Kav 300 Translated: Line 300 affair), also known as Kav 300 affair, was a 1984 incident in which Shin Bet members executed two Palestinian bus hijackers, immediately after the hostage crisis incident ended and they had been captured.
After the incident, the Shin Bet members gave false testimony on their involvement in the affair. The Israeli military censor blacked out coverage of the hijacking originally, but nevertheless, the publication of information regarding the affair in foreign press, and eventually in the Israeli media, led a public uproar which led many in the Israeli public to demand that the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the hijackers would be investigated. In 1985 a senior Israeli army general Yitzhak Mordechai was acquitted of charges related to the deaths of the captured hijackers. Later, it emerged that members of the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service, had implicated the general, while concealing who gave the direct order that the prisoners be killed. In 1986 the Attorney General of Israel, Yitzhak Zamir, was forced to resign after he refused to call off an investigation into the Shin Bet's role in the affair. Shortly afterwards Avraham Shalom, head of the Shin Bet resigned and was given a full Presidential pardon for unspecified crimes, while pardons were granted to many involved before charges were laid. Following the scandal, the Landau Commission was set up to investigate Shin Bet procedures.Carmi Gillon
Carmi Gillon (born January 1950) (Hebrew: כרמי גילון) is an Israeli politician and a former Israeli ambassador to Denmark and head of Shabak, the internal General Security Service (GSS; Israeli Security Agency, ISA) of Israel.
After the 4 November 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, he attracted criticism for failing to provide adequate security.He graduated from the National Security College. He has a B.A. in political science from the Hebrew University, where he was recruited into the Shin Bet. and an M.A. in public policy from the University of Haifa. He attended the six-week advanced management program at Harvard Business School, and completed management training at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.Gideon Ezra
Gideon Ezra (Hebrew: גדעון עזרא, 30 June 1937 – 17 May 2012) was an Israeli politician. He served as a member of the Knesset for Likud and Kadima between 1996 and 2012, and also held several ministerial portfolios.Izi Dorot
Izi Dorot (1916–1980), born Isidore Roth, was an Israeli military person, and director of the Shabak between 1952 and 1953.
Born in Poland in 1916, Dorot immigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine in 1936, and served in the Jewish Settlement Police. In World War II he volunteered and served in the British Army. After his discharge he was recruited to the Haganah Intelligence Service. Subsequent to the Israeli War of Independence he was transferred to the Israel Security Agency (ISA, Shin Bet). After one year as Head of Shin Bet, in October 1953, Dorot followed Isser Harel to the Mossad as Deputy Director; he was replaced as Director of Shin Bet by Amos Manor. He served as deputy director of the Mossad until 1963.Mosab Hassan Yousef
Mosab Hassan Yousef (Arabic: مصعب حسن يوسف; born May 5, 1978) is a Palestinian who worked undercover for Israel's internal security service Shin Bet from 1997 to 2007.
Shin Bet considered him its most valuable source within the Hamas leadership: The information Yousef supplied prevented dozens of suicide attacks and assassinations of Israelis, exposed numerous Hamas cells, and assisted Israel in hunting down many militants, including the incarceration of his own father, a Hamas leader, Sheikh Hassan Yousef. In March 2010, he published his autobiography titled Son of Hamas.In 1999, Yousef converted to Christianity, and in 2007, he moved to the United States. His request for political asylum in the United States was granted pending a routine background check on June 30, 2010.Nadav Argaman
Nadav Argaman (Hebrew: נדב ארגמן; born 11 August 1960) is the current head of Shin Bet. He previously served as deputy head of Shin Bet, Operations Division chief, and the Shin Bet representative in the United States. He was appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 11 February 2016. and assumed office in May 2016.The Gatekeepers (film)
The Gatekeepers (Hebrew: שומרי הסף "Shomrei HaSaf") is a 2012 internationally co-produced documentary film by director Dror Moreh that tells the story of the Israeli internal security service, Shin Bet (known in Hebrew as 'Shabak'), from the perspective of six of its former heads.
The film combines in-depth interviews, archival footage, and computer animation to recount the role that the group played in Israel's security from the Six-Day War to the present. The film was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 85th Academy Awards.Yaakov Peri
Ya'akov Peri (Hebrew: יעקב פרי, born 20 February 1944) is a former head of the Israeli security agency Shin Bet and formerly a member of the Knesset for Yesh Atid. He headed Shin Bet between 1988 and 1994. He was the first Shin Bet head born in Israel. After his service with Shin Bet he entered the business world. He became an MK in 2013 and was appointed Minister of Science, Technology and Space, a post he held until resigning on 2 December 2014. He resigned from the Knesset in February 2018.Yahya Ayyash
Yahya Abd-al-Latif Ayyash (Arabic: يحيى عياش) (22 February 1966 – 5 January 1996) was the chief bombmaker of Hamas and the leader of the West Bank battalion of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. In that capacity, he earned the nickname the Engineer (Arabic: المهندس, transliterated al-Muhandis). He was assassinated by Shin Bet on 5 January 1996.He is a celebrated hero to Palestinians who have named streets and other locales in his honor.Yisrael Hasson
Yisrael Hasson (Hebrew: ישראל חסון, born 27 April 1955) is an Israeli politician and former Deputy Director of Shin Bet. He served as a member of the Knesset for Yisrael Beiteinu and Kadima between 2006 and 2014, before becoming Chairman of the Israel Antiquities Authority.Yoram Cohen
Yoram Cohen (Hebrew: יורם כהן; born 1960) is a retired Israeli security person who served as the chief of Shin Bet (Shabak), the Israel Security Agency, from May 15, 2011. until May 8, 2016, when he was replaced by Nadav Argaman.Yuval Diskin
Yuval Diskin (Hebrew: יובל דיסקין; born June 11, 1956) was the 12th Director of the Israeli Internal Security Service Shabak (frequently referred to in English as the "Shin Bet") from 2005 to 2011. He was appointed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and later served under subsequent Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert and Binyamin Netanyahu.
National intelligence agencies