Report of the Commission Concerning the Events in Jordan
Summary for Publication
Jerusalem Government Press Office
17 February 1998
members of the commission:
Dr. Yosef Ciechanover,
Lt. Gen. (Res.) Rafi Peled,
Maj. Gen. (Res.) Dan Tolkowsky
On July 30, 1997, a suicide attack took place in the Mahane Yehuda
market in Jerusalem, in which 16 people were killed and 169 injured.
On September 4, 1997, a suicide attack took place in the Ben- Yehuda
pedestrian mall in Jerusalem, in which 5 people were killed and 169
injured. The Hamas [Islamic Resistance Movement] claimed responsibility
for the attacks.
In light of Government policy, a decision was taken to act against
On September 25, 1997, an attempt to assassinate Khalid Mish'al took
place in Jordan. The attempt failed and the agents were caught and
On October 6, 1997, the Government decided to appoint a Commission of
Inquiry, to investigate the Mosad operation against Khalid Mish'al in
The Commission held 47 meetings, heard 35 witnesses (some appeared
before it several times) and reviewed hundreds of exhibits and documents.
The commission held all its meetings behind closed doors, within a closed
facility in the central region of the country.
The Commission wished to focus on the major issues relating to the
failure of the operation in Jordan. Although the Government had not
imposed any constraints in the terms of reference, the Commission decided
to study the matter from the day upon which Khalid Mish'al was confirmed as
a target for attack until the day two Mosad agents were apprehended by the
Description of the Operation
On September 25, 1997, the Mosad agents waited at the entrance of the
Hamas offices in Amman, with the intention of assassinating Khalid Mish'al.
They succeeded in injuring him, using a lethal substance. However,
immediately afterwards, Khalid Mish'al's personal chauffeur and a security
guard intervened. The chauffeur, who saw what was happening, hit the agent
with a newspaper on his hand. The security guard began to chase the
agents, and was able to note the license plate number of the car in which
they had escaped, and boarded a passing car in order to pursue them. The
agents were unaware that they were being followed. After some 300 meters,
they stopped their car and left it. The security guard chased them and,
with the help of a plainclothes policeman, managed to overpower and
apprehend them. The agents were driven by the policeman and the security
guard in a taxi to the nearest police station, and placed under arrest.
When news of the agents' arrest broke in Israel, the Head of the Mosad
flew to Jordan, with the Prime Minister's consent, in order to report the
events to the King in person, bringing with him an antidote to treat Khalid
Mish'al was given the antidote, thus saving his life. In the
negotiations subsequently conducted for the release of the agents, an
agreement was reached with the Jordanian authorities whereby, in exchange
for the release of Shaykh Yasin and a number of other prisoners held in
Israel, they would release our agents and allow them to return to Israel.
Who is Khalid Mish'al?
Khalid Mish'al is the Head of the Political Department of the Hamas,
based in Amman, Jordan, having succeeded Abu-Marzuq in this position. From
his base in Jordan, Mish'al, in addition to his political functions,
activates various groups in Europe and Israel which initiate, encourage and
commit acts of terror and sabotage. Funds to finance these activities are
channeled through his office.
The Operation in Jordan
The presence of the Hamas headquarters in Jordan and its extensive
activities from this base have presented Israel with a major problem.
The decision to carry out the attack in Jordan was based on the
principle that no place in the world should be allowed to serve as a safe
harbor for those who plan to carry out murders and acts of terror in
Israel. Israel will act against those who seek to harm Jews, wherever they
In this the current Israeli Government follows the policy of previous
Governments. The Commission does not question this policy, but
nevertheless proposes that the Government discuss it, define its scope and
establish ground rules for its implementation.
The operation in Jordan was planned on the following assumptions:
The operational plan must ensure that its successful execution does
not leave any tracks that would incriminate Israel directly. In terms of
the intelligence community, it must be a "silent" operation. The
possibility of failure of the operation, and its implications, were hardly
addressed by the Mosad planners and their superiors.
Peace between Israel and Jordan, and ways to deepen and underpin it,
are a cornerstone of Israel's foreign policy. Even in the case of a
mishap, the foundations of the Israel-Jordan relationship would not be
fundamentally harmed. The planners of the operation assumed that the
probability of failure was minuscule. They were aware that the relations
that had developed following the peace treaty with Jordan were of prime
importance to the authorities of both countries, and firmly believed that
the "silent" operation, as planned, could in no way harm the King or the
Hashemite Government in Jordan.
The various heads of the intelligence community, as well as the
majority of witnesses who appeared before us, shared these basic
assumptions, although they did not necessarily all agree with the timing of
Several factors came together, leading to the failure of the operation
in Jordan, the main one being the conceptual fixation prevailing in the
Mosad, at the various levels involved in planning, approving and carrying
out the operation. It was generally believed that the weapon in question
and its mode of use were almost infallible. The weapon was silent and had
no immediately evident effect upon the target. It was assumed that the
proposed operation would be effective without anybody being immediately
aware of it. Furthermore, if for any reason the attack was aborted, the
weapon in the hands of the assailant, looking innocent enough (unlike, say,
a handgun), would not expose the fact that an attempt had been made, and
would thus not lead to anybody pointing an accusing finger at Israel.
This concept of a "silent operation," with minimal chances of failure,
hardly took into account the possibility that it could fail for any reason,
and turn into a "noisy" one. The planning, plans and preparations did not
seriously consider such a possibility, nor was this aspect sufficiently
emphasized when the plan was presented to the Prime Minister. The plan
should not have been formulated in this manner in the first place, and
should certainly not have been presented as such to the Prime Minister.
The Commission found flaws in the planning of the operation in Jordan,
the preparations for its launch, in the theory behind the handling and
application of the lethal substance and the weapon, and in the coordination
of the operation between the various branches of the intelligence
In the course of its work, the Commission identified several
structural and system defects in the Mosad, which, in its view, contributed
to the creation of these erroneous conceptions, with resulting faulty
methods and procedures. The Commission dealt with these issues at
considerable length in its Report, following up with many recommendations,
most of which are highly classified for obvious reasons, and which cannot
therefore be made public.
The Commission also addressed the matter of coordination between the
services within the intelligence community, with particular reference to
the modus operandi of the Heads of Services Committee, and has made certain
The Commission addressed the issue of the establishment of a National
Security Council, concluding that it was very doubtful whether, in the
present circumstances, it would be appropriate and practical to create such
a body, and therefore does not recommend that such a Council be established
at this point.
The Commission examined and made certain recommendations related to
the intelligence advisory functions in the Prime Minister's Office. The
Commission recommends that an Assistant for Intelligence and Security, with
a rank equivalent or close to that of a Major General in the Israel Defense
Forces [IDF], be appointed to serve the Prime Minister. This person should
be an intelligence expert, and should be responsible for dealing with the
extensive flow of intelligence information to the Prime Minister's Office.
The Assistant would serve as a direct link between the Prime Minister and
the heads of the intelligence services, and would be a regular member of
the Heads of Services Committee. He would be in a position to present to
the Prime Minister the essence of the available intelligence information
and to draw his attention to any issues as required, bearing in mind that
the Prime Minister cannot be reasonably expected to handle the large flow
of intelligence information effectively, without a modicum of expert
The appointment of the Assistant for Intelligence and Security should
in no circumstances create a barrier between the Prime Minister and the
intelligence community, or replace the existing Military Secretary to the
Prime Minister, who serves as liaison officer between the Prime Minister
and the Israel Defense Forces. In order to avoid any overlap between the
two functions, and in the interests of economy, we propose that the two
officers work out of a single bureau, and one of them be subordinated to
the other, depending upon the circumstances.
Conclusions Relating to Individuals
The Head of the Mosad and the Division Head in charge of the Combat
Unit tried to convince us that their conduct, as well as the plans and
preparations made prior to the operation, were flawless, and that the
failure of the attempt resulted directly from mistakes made by the
combatants in the course of the operation. We have not overlooked the fact
that such mistakes were made, but feel that the combatants should not bear
the full responsibility for them. In fact, we have concluded that their
mistakes in the course of the operation were in large measure due to flaws
in conception and planning, in the ultimate operational plan as well as in
training for the operation. We have found that the Head of the Mosad and
the Division Head bear a heavy responsibility in these matters.
When we arrived at the above conclusions, we deemed it appropriate to
advise the Head of the Mosad and the Division Head accordingly. We
indicated the specifics of our conclusions to them, and where we thought
they had apparently been deficient, and that they might in consequence by
adversely affected by our conclusions. We requested that they address these
issues. They have done so, in writing, and we have considered their
responses in preparing our detailed observations and conclusions in the
The Prime Minister
We are unanimous in conclusions regarding the Prime Minister.
In examining the conduct of the Prime Minister, bearing in mind that
the Head of the Mosad reports to him directly, we tried to define our own
criteria, to help us analyze the process in which he examined and approved
the plans for the attack against Khalid Mish'al.
To assist us in our analysis, we compared the Prime Minister's
handling of the case with the manner in which similar cases had been
handled in the past. In doing so we reached the conclusion that the Prime
Minister had dealt with the case in a responsible manner, having considered
and examined the plans presented to him from every possible aspect that
might have been expected of him.
From the minutes of discussions held in the Prime Minister's Office,
we learned that the Prime Minister had inquired about details of the plans
as might have been expected of him. We found that he repeatedly asked that
the operation be coordinated with the other heads of the intelligence
community, to ensure that they be informed and coordinated as necessary,
and we are aware of the fact that a number of discussions were held in the
Prime Minister's Office before the plan was approved and executed.
We also inquired whether the Prime Minister's conduct in relation to
the attack against Mish'al was any different from that of other incumbents
in similar circumstances. We therefore studied the relevant minutes
regarding similar operations in the past, and heard the testimonies of
former Prime Ministers. We reached the conclusion that the Prime
Minister's conduct in no way deviated from the norms and procedures
customary in similar cases in the past.
The Commission also examined the question of whether the Prime
Minister had exerted any unreasonable pressure to carry out the operation
"quickly and at any cost," so that it might serve as an immediate response
to the terrorist attacks at the Mahane Yehuda market and the pedestrian
mall in Jerusalem. We reached the conclusion that no unreasonable pressure
had been exerted by the Prime Minister in this matter.
We do not therefore find any flaw in the conduct of the Prime Minister
and Minister in charge of the Mosad.
The Commission did not deem it appropriate to delve into the question
of the Prime Minister's ministerial responsibility for the failure of the
operation. This matter had already been examined in the past by various
investigating commissions, which determined that the issue of political
responsibility is not a matter for investigation by commissions or other
courts of inquiry, but rather within the purview of relations between
elected representatives and the electorate. In stating the above, we do
not imply that we have found any flaw, from the political aspect, in the
Prime Minister's conduct.
The Head of the Mosad
Dan Yatom was appointed to the position of Head of the Mosad
approximately a year and a half ago. His last position prior to this
appointment was Military Secretary to the Prime Minister, with the rank of
Major General in the IDF. He has devoted his entire active life to the
security of the State and to the Israel Defense Forces. Dan Yatom has
served, inter alia, in numerous combat command posts at the highest level,
and has impressive achievements to his credit. We were impressed by Mr.
Yatom's appearance before us, his openness and the manner in which he
addressed the issue.
Giving evidence, Dan Yatom addressed the question of the extent to
which the Head of the Mosad must delve into details of the plans of Mosad
units before giving his approval. We did not wish to answer this question
in a general manner, but we are certain that before approving a plan of the
type in question, the head of the Mosad must indeed study it in detail.
We found that the senior ranks involved in approval of the plans
within the Mosad and their presentation to the Prime Minister were among
the main factors leading to failure of the operation. The Commission noted
a series of shortcomings and errors in the Mosad's basic approach, leading
to what was planned as a "silent operation." These were evident in the
planning process, in the structure and composition of the plans, and in the
manner in which the particular weapon was treated in the plans.
We believe that the head of the Mosad erred in his handling of the
operation and in approval of the plan. This should not have been
structured as a "silent operation," without providing for contingency
measures should it become a "noisy" one.
The Commission believes that the Head of the Mosad had enough time at
his disposal to convene an additional orderly discussion with the heads of
the intelligence services, prior to the operation, and that this should
have been done. Nevertheless, the Commission is of the opinion that the
heads of the intelligence community were indeed informed by the Head of the
Mosad of a possible operation directed against Mish'al.
The Head of the Mosad has extensive experience and knowledge in the
field of military operations and it might well have been expected from him
that before approving the plan he would identify and address its numerous
shortcomings, which were revealed to us in the course of our examination,
and would act to rectify them, rather than approve them in what was their
final form. It would also have been appropriate that the Head of the Mosad
inform the Prime Minister in greater detail of the operational and
political implications of carrying out the plan.
We should add that a significant part of the military doctrine
underlying the plan is the product of concepts and practices developed and
shaped in the Mosad over many years. The Head of the Mosad essentially
continued to apply the existing planning, handling and execution procedures
and processes previously formed and used in the Mosad.
Summary of the Majority Opinion of the Commission
We believe that in the context of our functions as a Commission of
Inquiry, we have thoroughly covered all that was required of us concerning
Dan Yatom, the Head of the Mosad. We have spelt out the matters in which
we believe he erred and have enumerated the reasons for these errors. We
do not deem it appropriate to make any further recommendations regarding
him, as we believe that this should be left to the Government's discretion,
after study of the facts and recommendations in our Report which, we think,
speak for themselves.
Summary of the Minority Opinion -- Rafi Peled
Following the conclusions reached by the Commission, based on the
material presented to it, concerning the conduct of the Head of the Mosad
and the measure of his responsibility in the failed operation in Jordan,
one cannot refrain from making more specific recommendations. In fact, I
believe it is the duty of the Commission to do so. In light of the above,
I recommend that Mr. Dan Yatom be relieved of his duties as Head of the
The Division Head in Charge of the Combat Unit
___________, Division Head in charge of the Combat Unit, has much experience,
with many successes to his credit, and belongs in the list of unknown
combatants to whom the State of Israel is deeply indebted, whose numerous
contributions cannot be publicly acknowledged.
He was in charge of the unit which carried out the field operation
against Khalid Mish'al, and was therefore directly responsible for planning
and approving the plans, and ordering their execution, without adequate
study and without making the most of all possible sources of information to
help ensure success.
This officer's main error was that he did not identify the
shortcomings in the plans and approved a plan which might have perhaps been
adequate for a "silent operation," not taking into account the possibility
that it might rapidly turn "noisy," for various reasons. A "noisy"
operation requires a totally different approach, and therefore at least
part of the components of such an approach should have been included as
contingencies in the plan for the operation in question. H. should not
have approved this flawed and inadequate plan, and should have warned his
superior more emphatically and indicated to him the plan's shortcomings.
In the course of the Commission's work, the Division Head announced
that he had completed his intended term of service in his current position,
and that he was in the process of retiring from the Mosad.
The Commission deems it appropriate to mention H.'s particularly
impressive conduct before it and his complete cooperation when giving
The Division Head -- Minority Opinion -- Rafi Peled
Following the Commission's conclusions, based on material presented to
it, concerning the conduct of the Division Head and the measure of his
responsibility for the failure of the operation in Jordan, it would be
incorrect to refrain from making specific recommendations. In fact, I
believe it is the Commission's duty to do so. H. announced his retirement
from the Mosad before the Commission completed its deliberations. This
action reflects my opinion, and in light of this fact I do not see the need
for any additional recommendations.
The Commander and Members of the Combat Unit -- Majority Opinion
The unit that carried out the operation in Jordan is an elite unit of
combatants with many successful missions to their credit, who have
contributed greatly to the security of Israel, through personal sacrifice
and at great personal risk. They, as well as most of their deeds, will
probably remain unknown forever.
___________, Commander of this Unit, has had many years of operational
activities, with extensive experience and with some very impressive
achievements to his credit.
We note that this Unit functions as a single entity, with some of its
members and its Commander preparing the initial layout of each mission,
each participant drawing upon his experience and insight. The Unit
Commander works very closely with his men, and regards them as equals.
The Unit's main function is to carry out combat missions. Its
proposed plans are vetted, complemented and authorized by a higher echelon,
namely the Division Head and his assistants. The Division Head carries
most of the responsibility for the plans. With his extensive knowledge and
experience, he is expected to provide an overview of each plan as well as
study all its components, making necessary modifications and correcting
omissions as required, after which he may authorize it.
As previously stated, we believe that the principle reason for the
failure of the operation lies in the plan and the manner in which it was
devised and we have concluded that it is the Division Head, rather than the
Combat Unit, who bears most of the responsibility for the failure.
We perceive the members of the Combat Unit mainly as fighters in the
field, with their Commander an integral part of the Unit. In this context,
any attempt to dissociate T.'s duties as combatant from those as a planner
would be inappropriate and artificial, and would unjustly cast upon his
additional heavy responsibility in the failed mission which he does not
The Combat Unit's contribution to the planning should be viewed as
stemming from their experience as combatants. They should evidently not be
responsible for formulating the ultimate plan and authorizing it.
The Combat Team are aware that if they are caught in the act they will
be held accountable under the laws of the country in which they are
operating. They are also aware of the fact that they are not above the law
in their own country. Nevertheless, we believe that in assessing their
responsibility one should establish whether the failure was caused by human
error alone, or stemmed from a blatant violation of instructions, serious
negligence, or extreme carelessness. If, on the other hand, they are
penalized in every case of failure, this might well lead to a situation in
which the commanders of these units, and the combatants too, fail to act,
or are constrained in their actions to such an extent that their ability to
carry out their missions is gravely impaired.
After studying the material before us, we have concluded that while
the combatants and their Commander T. were responsible for a number of
human errors in the course of the operation, these errors might have been
prevented. The authorizing echelons, whose functions, we think, go well
beyond providing a seal of approval, but rather play a significant role in
shaping the plans and basic operational procedures, might well have
prevented the development and launch of inadequate and defective plans.
The Commission was informed that T. had left his position in order to
pursue his studies, and we have therefore refrained from making any
recommendations in this regard.
Commander and Members of the Combat Unit -- Minority Opinion -- Rafi
The Unit which carried out the operation in Jordan is an elite unit of
fighters who have contributed greatly to Israel's security, at great
personal risk and sacrifice.
The danger and uncertainty which characterize such operations, the
high risks involved and the need to carry out complex missions in
unfamiliar and changing conditions, lead me to conclude that the
appropriate way to examine the quality of performance of those combatants
is in the context of an operational debriefing within the Unit, rather than
any alternative option of investigation and trial.
___________, Commander of the Unit, began his career as a combatant, working
his way up the ladder of operational duties eventually becoming Unit
Commander. He has many years of responsible and high- risk operations to
his credit, and his contribution to the security of the State of Israel
cannot be quantified by any normal standard.
In analyzing the duties of all members of the Mosad who gave evidence
before the Commission, we found T.'s position to be the most difficult and
complex. He wears two caps: one, as a fighter, leading his soldiers in the
field, and the other as a staff officer, a senior commander with a rank
corresponding to that of an army Colonel, responsible for planning and
formulating his unit's operational plans.
There is a very clear and distinct line separating T.'s position as a
fighter and commander in the field, which is beyond the scope of our
inquiry, and his other position, as a senior staff officer, with a direct
responsibility for planning.
An important question which I had to address was whether the failure
was a result of inadequate and flawed planning process and ultimate plan,
or rather the result of mishaps in its implementation in the field.
A thorough examination of findings presented to us and an analysis of
the details of the planning procedure and the ultimate operational plan
lead me to believe that the main reasons for the failure of the operation
were, first and foremost, inadequate and flawed planning within the Unit
under T.'s command. These shortcomings led to an erroneous and inadequate
plan, approved by the higher echelons, and the combatants sent on a mission
which would almost inevitably fail.
I learned that the operational concept, the method of implementation,
the location of the operation, the planning procedure, the formulation of
the operational plan and the operation orders were entirely devised by the
Unit, under T.'s command, and I find him directly responsible for all of
The chain of operational responsibility in the Mosad is comprised of
three links only. Any attempt to extract a single link from the chain, and
the basic planning function in particular, breaks the causal connection
between the inadequate planning at the Unit level and the commanding
echelons that approved the plan in a negligent fashion.
Any attempt to quantify the measure of responsibility and divide it
among the three links of the chain, leads me to the conclusion that the
role of the planning echelon, headed by T., is no less important than that
of the other two authorizing echelons above. Thus, it would be wrong to
look upon T. as a minor link, one of a number. Rather, he should be viewed
as a major planner, bearing most of the responsibility for the inadequate
and flawed plan.
The Commission was informed that T. had completed his term of duty and
had left to pursue his studies. I therefore recommend that upon completion
of T.'s studies, the Head of the Mosad take into account the findings and
conclusions formulated in this report when reassigning him in the Mosad.
The Commission held its meetings in a closed facility in the central
region of the country, with all evidence and discussions behind closed
doors. The Commission acted in accordance with article 18(A) of the Law of
Commissions of Inquiry 1968, which states that such commissions are
entitled to conduct their discussions behind closed doors if they deem it
necessary for reasons of national security. Needless to say, the sessions
also included matters and evidence which would not be considered state
secrets. However, it was not possible to draw a line between those parts
which could be disclosed and those which could not. The Commission
prepared this Report on the basis of the same rationale. Most of what
appears in the complete Report is highly classified and cannot be made
public. The Commission has therefore decided to classify the complete
Report as "Top Secret."
The Commission functioned, as much as possible, as a Commission of
Inquiry. It enjoyed the full cooperation of all those involved, whether
summoned to give evidence or asked to provide material requested by the
Commission. The members of the Commission were empowered according to
Article 15(A) of the Evidence Ordinance (revised version) of 1971.
Evidence was heard by the Commission, after witnesses had been suitably
cautioned, following which the witnesses were entitled to review their
testimonies. These, as well as any document presented, were subsequently
certified by the witnesses' signatures.
This short summary of the Report is published in order to provide the
public with some knowledge of the Commission's conclusions and
recommendations. The difficulty involved in preparing this publication is
that it conceals more than it reveals, which might be misleading.
Nevertheless, we feel it our duty to bring before the public a portion,
however limited, of our main conclusions, the publication of which does not
divulge information harmful to the State.