Review: Rise And Kill First (Ronen Bergman)

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Ronen Bergman’s Rise and Kill First is a powerful tour-de-force that recounts the targeted assassination program of the Israeli intelligence community (including, but not limited to, the Mossad).

Those interested in the murky world of intelligence (particularly HUMINT) will find lots to interesting insights into the tradecraft of the Mossad, particularly during its formative years, as it surveilled and then eliminated threats to Israel’s national security around the world.

Through what must have been a painstaking research process and the insights of plenty of insiders, the author also does a good job at portraying the internal politics that pervaded between various heads of the Mossad and Prime Ministers as well as the considerations — beyond the many tactical ones — that led to decisions to sign off on Red Papers and then action missions to eliminate targets.

Nevertheless, for all its sense of intrigue and the rich insights into Israel’s turbulent shadow wars that it managed to convey, the sheer length of this book (784 pages in paperback) felt at time arduous.

I don’t, on principle, read multiple books at the same time; so I embarked on a mission of my own to finish this one. Although, through the missions discussed here, one gleans a lot of information about Israeli history and the practicalities of Israel’s infiltration of hostile groups, in other respects, the unending cycle of violence begins to feel as repetitive as it is outside the curtained world of the intelligence community.

A very worthwhile read, particularly for those interested in the world of Israeli intelligence.

But equally, I felt that had some material been cut, and some detail left to the imagination, the outcome would have been a more succinct read that would have delivered the same gritty messages and perspective.

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