Historical Dictionary of Israeli Intelligence

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German scientists working in Egypt on the development of missiles.
See also JOKLIK, OTTO.

BEN-NATAN, ASHER (1921– ).Member of the Israeli intelligence
community and diplomat. Ben-Natan was born Arthur Piernikartz in
Vienna, where he attended a Hebrew high school and was a member
of the Young Maccabi Zionist movement. Immediately following the
Anschluss (Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria) in March 1938,
Ben-Natan immigrated to Palestine.
When reports of the extermination of European Jewry in World
War II first began to circulate, Ben-Natan joined the Mossad
Le’Aliyah Beth. Initially he served in minor roles in the agency’s In-
vestigations Department. When World War II ended he was sent to
Austria to promote the organization’s work in illegal immigration to
Palestine. Until early 1946 Ben-Natan was engaged in smuggling
Jews to Palestine with the assistance of American army officers. He
encountered no major obstacles and successfully moved tens of thou-
sands of refugees. At that time, Ben-Natan participated in major
Zionist events, for example, the 22nd Zionist Congress in 1946 in
Basel, which debated the issue of continuing the struggle against the
British in Palestine. There he met Shimon Peres, who was to become
Ben-Natan’s patron over a period of many years.
In the spring of 1947 Ben-Natan ended his role with the Mossad
Le’Aliyah Beth. He returned to Palestine and, at Peres’s recommen-
dation, joined the bureau of David Ben-Gurion, later Israel’s first
prime minister. Ben-Natan was assigned the task of liaison between
Ben-Gurion and the Israeli Workers party (Mapai) on security mat-
ters. In 1948 Ben-Natan was appointed head of the Operations De-
partment of the new Foreign Ministry’s problematic espionage sec-
tion, which was headed by another elusive figure, Boris Guriel.
Ben-Natan was involved in the famous Spies’ Revolt, which was
connected with personnel and structural changes in Israel’s secret ser-
vices. The changes were principally designed to strengthen the posi-
tion of Mapai “activists,” Ben-Gurion, the Ministry of Defense, and
the Israel Defense Forces—and to weaken the position of the foreign
minister and the Foreign Ministry. The changes were effected
through the elimination of the Political Department, the removal
of Guriel and Reuven Shiloahfrom their posts, and the appointment


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