KGB files reportedly revealed the existence of an extensive Soviet spy ring in Israel, encompassing Knesset members, senior IDF officers, engineers, members of the Israeli intelligence community, and others who worked on classified projects.
Top-secret KGB documents reported on by the Hebrew-language daily Yedioth Ahronoth Wednesday detailed the extent of the network of agents run by the Soviet secret service.
The documents were copied over a period of 20 years by Vasili Mitrokhin, a senior KGB archivist who defected to the UK in 1992. His edited notes on various KGB operations were released in 2014 and are stored in Churchill College in Cambridge; his handwritten notes remain classified by MI5.
The archivist’s notes on the KGB comprised some of the most complete information available on Soviet intelligence operations. A team from Yedioth was given access to the documents relating to the KGB’s work in Israel and discovered the extent of the agency’s network in the Jewish state.
One of the Soviets’ prime goals was to penetrate the Israeli political system. In the 1950s the KGB targeted the left-wing Mapam party and according to the records recruited at least three MKs. One of those is referred to by the KGB code name “Grant,” and the archive claims that he lived “in Kibutz Shoval, near Beersheba.”
Mitrokhin wrote that the agent was MK Elazar Granot, who went on to serve as the head of the party and was a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the 1980s. Granot was said to have been recruited before 1967’s Six Day War by KGB agent Yuri Kotov, but the connection between them ended when the Russians closed their embassy in 1967.
Granot’s son Dan told Yedioth that he remembered Kotov’s nighttime visits from his childhood. The Soviet agent would arrive in a diplomatic car “bringing excellent vodka with him and great Hungarian sausages.”
Still, Dan Granot said that his father “had no access to classified information, so that even if he would have wanted to, he didn’t have the option of being a spy.”
Another agent revealed by Mitrokhin documents was code-named “Boker” and was a senior engineer in a top-secret national project. A third was “Jimmy,” who had access to classified information about the Israeli aerospace industry, and was involved in building the ill-fated Lavi aircraft. Another soviet spy was part of the team behind Israel’s Merkava tank.
But the Russians’ greatest recruitment was an IDF general. In 1993, when the archive came to London, MI6 passed the name of the general and relevant information to Israel’s Shin Bet security service. A veteran of the intelligence service told Yedioth that the Shin Bet did not reveal the name “but I understood from them that it was a huge shock to receive this information from the British. Given the state of health of the general and, in my opinion, also because of the embarrassment it would cause to the IDF and the State of Israel, it was decided not to act against him or bring him to trial.”
“To the best of my knowledge he passed away shortly afterward,” he added.
Yedioth said it would release more details in its Friday issue.
Last month the Mitrokhin archive revealed that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was a Soviet spy in Damascus in the 1980s.