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Israelis You Should Know: Meir Amit

Meir Amit decorates artillery officers, 1956 (Photo: GPO)

Lived: March 17, 1921 - July 17, 2009

Known for: Head of the Mossad and a leading Israeli political figure, Meir Amit is considered the most successful intelligence officer in Israeli history.

Why you should know him: Meir Amit was born in Tiberias, the cousin of famed poet Boris Slutsky. At a young age, Amit joined a kibbutz in the Galilee before enlisting in the Haganah, the precursor to the IDF.

Amit fought for the Haganah during Israel's War of Independence in 1948. After Israel won its independence, he remained in the military and became a major general as a protege of Moshe Dayan. In the late 1950s, Amit earned his MBA at Columbia Business School in New York, before returning to the Holy Land.

Back in Israel, Amit entered Israel's intelligence community, first as the head of IDF Intelligence, and then as Mossad Director - the only Israeli to hold both positions at the same time.

As Director of the Mossad, Amid led some of the agency's greatest victories, including penetrating the highest levels of Syria's government. He also helped engineer the defection of an Iraqi pilot who landed the then-new Mig-21 fighter jet in Israel.

But Amit's greatest success, perhaps, was Israel's human intelligence (HUMINT) unit. Leading up to the Six-Day War of 1967, Amit's network of informants throughout Egypt's military provided key information responsible for Israel's victory.

Amit also built bridges between Israel and the United States, as a close ally of the CIA, helping his American counterparts bring many wrongdoers to justice around the globe.

After retiring from the Mossad, Amit continued to work for his homeland's government, acting as chairman of Israel's Center for Special Studies and receiving the Israel Prize in 2003 for lifetime achievement and his special contribution to the Jewish state.

When Meir Amit passed away in 2009, Israeli President Shimon Peres remembered him by saying:

"Entire generations owe Meir Amit Slutsky a debt of gratitude for his immense contribution to Mossad and the defense community, a large part which remains secret now in building the strength and deterrence of Israel. He was a natural leader, whom people trusted, and at the same time he was a visionary for the state. We are proud to have a personality of his stature born in our country."

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