Mossad was founded in 1951 by Isser Harel, who served as director of the organization until 1963. It is complemented by the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal intelligence service. Israel’s government describes Mossad and Shin Bet assassinations of leaders of groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad as counterterrorism, while Arab leaders have accused the agency of “state terrorism.”
Mossad made its reputation as a fierce spy corps with the May 11, 1960, kidnapping of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann from his home in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Eichmann was brought to Israel to stand trial and was found guilty of and executed for crimes against humanity. In 1976, Mossad agents also staged an impressive rescue of hostages aboard an Israeli airliner that had been hijacked to Entebbe, Uganda.
In the early part of the decade, however, agents bungled the planned assassination of the alleged organizer of the murders of the Israeli team at the 1972 Munich Olympics, mistakenly attacking an Arab waiter in Norway. In 1986, Mossad agents carried out another famous mission, as a blonde agent identified only as “Cindy” brought nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu from London to Italy on a holiday. Vanunu, an Israeli citizen, was then drugged and taken to Israel to be tried for leaking Israeli nuclear secrets to the British press.
He was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Mossad agents often targeted Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) members during the 1980s, and in 1988 assassinated top PLO leader Abu Jihad, a cofounder of Yasir Arafat’s Fatah movement.
Although in Mossad’s first few decades its agents were often said to be the best spies in the world, Mossad made repeated blunders in the late 1990s.
While headlines compared the agency to the Keystone Kops, high-ranking Mossad officials resigned. In 1997 in Amman, Jordan, Mossad agents tried to assassinate Hamas member Khaled Meshal with a poison injection in broad daylight. They aimed poorly and were arrested after a foiled attempt at flight. The captured agents were later exchanged for prominent Islamic leaders held by Israel. Further problems ensued when a routine wiretap was discovered in Bern, Switzerland. Another Mossad agent was put on trial for fabricating information that nearly led to a declaration of war between Israel and Syria. In 1998, two agents were caught in Cyprus with surveillance tapes and charged with spying. As the number of mistakes rose, the agency’s head, Danny Yatom, was forced to resign and British-born Ephraim Halavy, who was previously Israel’s diplomatic envoy to the European Union, was appointed as his replacement.
In summer 2000, Mossad advertised for new recruits in Israel’s newspapers for the first time, asking qualified applicants to fax resumes and identification numbers. This advertising campaign provoked much surprised discussion in the press, as Mossad is so secretive that it had never released a telephone number. It still does not have a Web site and it never provides press releases.
Black, Ian, and Benny Morris. Israel’s Secret Wars, the Untold History of Israeli Intelligence. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1991.
Melman, Yossi. Every Spy a Prince: The Complete History of Israel’s Intelligence Community. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1990.
Ostrovsky, Victor, and Claire Hoy. By Way of Deception: A Devastating Insider’s Portrait of Mossad. New York: St. Martin’s, 1990.
Thomas, Gordon. Gideon’s Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad. Updated ed. New York: St. Martin’s, 2000. 
See also: Gaza, غزه (in Spanish) Kushner Harvey W. Hamas. In encyclopedia Of Terrorism. Sage Publications, Inc. London, 2003.