Photo: Shir Segal
Ram Ben-Barak today
Photo: Shir Segal

Contender for Mossad chief once caught spying in foreign country

Ram Ben-Barak was detained abroad along with fellow cell members after policeman on routine patrol caught them with listening devices.

A foreign country in the 90s, late at night, a police officer on a routine patrol stops by a particular apartment building. Through the glass door, he spots several men and women with listening devices on the floor next to them. This was in the opening salvo in what proved to be an embarrassing diplomatic incident and a genuine security debacle for Israel.



The policeman invited the group to join him at the nearest police station. All of them were Mossad operatives.


The military censor has confirmed that one of those detainees was a young agent named Ram Ben-Barak, who has since forged a glorious career in the Israeli intelligence establishment. Last week, 23 years after that incident, Ben-Barak emerged from the shadows for the first time, when the government approved his appointment as director-general of the Intelligence Services Ministry.


Ram Ben-Barak following his arrest in the 90s. (Photo: Tzvika Tishler)
Ram Ben-Barak following his arrest in the 90s. (Photo: Tzvika Tishler)


For Ben-Barak this may not even be the final step on the career ladder, as the 56-year-old is now one of three final candidates to replace Tamir Pardo, who is expected to step down as Mossad director at the end of 2015.


Competing for the job against Ben-Barak are former Mossad deputy chief Yossi Cohen, who now heads the National Security Council, and the current unnamed deputy director of the institution. The entanglement abroad two decades ago, which led to his arrest along with his fellow Mossad cell members, was at the time published by the media all over the world, as well as in Israel.


After his arrest, Ben-Barak, then operating under an assumed name, was separated from his comrades in order to prevent them from coordinating their stories. According to reports at the time, the entire cell claimed that they unsuspecting tourists who were visiting one of the beach resorts in the area, and who had entered the stairwell of the apartment building that night in search of a toilet. A search of the building on the night of the arrest revealed no evidence of a break-in.


Ram Ben-Barak today (Photo: Shir Segal)
Ram Ben-Barak today (Photo: Shir Segal)


The authorities of that state filed charges of espionage, burglary, trespassing, and more against the cell members. The judge granted bail to the Israelis, who were being represented by a local lawyer, and they were immediately driven to the Israeli embassy. After low-key negotiations between Israel and the foreign state, the cell members were convicted solely of trespass, paid a fine and returned to Israel.



Ben-Barak began his military service as a fighter and later an officer in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit. He then moved to an operational unit of the Mossad, and for two decades he held the entire range of operational roles at the Mossad, including the post of head of operations, and deputy and assistant director.


At the end of his tenure as deputy director, he was seconded to the IDF as special operations coordinator between the Mossad and the army.



פרסום ראשון: 12.09.14, 10:09
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