Mossad’s Meir Amit Born
Meir Amit (right) stands with Chaim Herzog in 1962, the year before he became the head of the Mossad. (Credit: Moshe Pridan, Israeli Government Press Office)
March 17, 1921

Meir Amit, a career soldier who builds the Mossad into an internationally renowned intelligence agency, is born Meir Slutzky on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in Tiberias.

He attends agricultural school at Kibbutz Givat Ha’shlosha and the Balfour Reali secondary school in Tel Aviv. He starts a distinguished military career by joining the Haganah at age 15. He serves as a battalion commander during the War of Independence, and his battles include the fight to take Eilat.

Amit rises through the ranks after the war, and he is the second in command to Moshe Dayan by the Suez Crisis of 1956. His work proves crucial to the Israel Defense Forces’ successes in the Sinai campaign.

After a nearly fatal parachuting accident, he earns an M.B.A. from Columbia University, and he is appointed the director of military intelligence upon his return to Israel in 1961. Two years later, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion appoints him the head of the Mossad. Before he leaves the military intelligence directorship, he forms a partnership between his old and new organizations.

He modernizes the Mossad and establishes its elite reputation. He builds relationships with foreign intelligence agencies and the Kurds. He oversees Eli Cohen’s espionage in Syria and the capture of a MiG-21, the most advanced Soviet fighter at the time, from the Iraqi air force. He also supposedly wins American approval for a pre-emptive strike before the June 1967 war.

He resigns from the Mossad in 1968 but serves in various positions within the intelligence community, including being Dayan’s assistant during the Yom Kippur War. He briefly enters politics in the late 1970s.

He is awarded the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement in 2003 in recognition of his service to Israel. He dies in July 2009.