AVRAHAM SHALOM  /  1980-1986


Avraham Shalom began his military career before the State of Israel was founded. He fought in the Palmach, the pre-state underground paramilitary group that formed the basis of the IDF, and then moved to the Shin Bet just as it was being founded. In 1959-1960, he was part of the team of Mossad and Shin Bet operatives that tracked and kidnapped an Argentine citizen, Ricardo Klement, better known as Adolf Eichmann, and brought him to justice in Israel. Following the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, Shalom was appointed head of the Shin Bet’s Security Desk. In 1980, he became Head of the Shin Bet.


Shalom’s turbulent tenure was rocked by terrorism from Palestinians and, increasingly, from fundamentalist Jews who opposed all concessions in the country’s quest for peace. A “Jewish Underground” composed of radical West Bank settlers opened fire on the Islamic College of Hebron, killing three students, and planted bombs in the cars of leading Palestinian officials, permanently maiming the mayors of Ramallah and Nablus. When Shalom eventually caught the “Underground,” he uncovered a plot to blow up the Dome of the Rock, an act which would have unleashed the fury of the entire Arab world against the State of Israel.


By the early 1980s, Shalom was one of the most influential security figures in Israel, though this eventually led to his downfall. In 1984 he ordered the summary execution of two terrorists captured alive after hijacking the 300 bus from Tel Aviv to Ashkelon. A front page newspaper photo of one of those terrorists being taken off the bus in handcuffs led to an official investigation. Shalom remained taciturn throughout, and refused to divulge the full story of what happened, even after senior Shin Bet officials resigned in protest. According to Shalom, the incident was handled with the full consent of the highest levels of government. Prime ministers Yizhak Shamir and Shimon Peres supported Shalom, but the public outcry eventually forced his resignation in 1986.