Harari, born in Tel Aviv in 1927, died there on Sunday, the Ynet website reported. He served in the notorious pre-state Haganah militia and Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency before joining the Mossad in 1954, Ynet said.
Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film Munich, which presented a fictionalised version of the assassinations of European operatives of the Palestinian Black September movement, depicted them as being directed by a new Mossad recruit who eventually quits the agency over moral reservations. In reality, according to several non-fiction books about the Mossad, it was veteran agent Harari who led ‘Operation Wrath of God’ against Black September. The operation was uncovered after Harari’s agents mistakenly killed a Moroccan waiter in Norway in 1973, after misidentifying him as a Palestinian militant.
“Most of what Mike Harari did for the security of Israel as a fighter and commander in the Mossad is not publicly known, and will never be known,” Israeli defence minister, Moshe Ya’alon said. “But all those who knew him understand we are talking about a man who carried out exceptional and groundbreaking operations, with a brave heart and creative prowess.”
After retiring from the Mossad, Harari was cited by some media reports as serving as a security adviser to Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega before the 1989 US invasion of the state. A year later, Harari gave a rare interview on Israeli television to deny that report, as well as rumours he had been briefly arrested in Panama by American forces.
According to The Master of Operations, a biography of Harari published earlier this year, the former agent continued to advise the Mossad into his 80s. His contributions included consulting on Israel’s covert operations against Iran’s nuclear program, The Times of Israel news website reported last April.