This year’s Israel Security Prize will go to the team that lifted Iran’s nuclear secrets from under the ayatollahs’ noses.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
The 2019 Israel Security Prize will be awarded to the Mossad for its success in breaking into a Tehran archive last year and spiriting out thousands of documents that proved Iran had worked on developing nuclear weapons long after the Islamic Republic said it had stopped.
The decision, announced Sunday, was made by a committee that took into consideration many factors, including the significance of the intelligence material found, the level of risk in the operation, and how much its success meant to the security of the country.
The group was headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister.
Israel shared the archive’s information with the U.S., giving the Trump administration additional ammunition to back out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which it did shortly after. The documentation was therefore of prime importance to Israel’s security, as Netanyahu had stated for years that the deal was a strategic threat to the Jewish state.
The extreme riskiness of the operation is also unquestioned. A number of operatives had to sneak into the capital city of Israel’s most powerful enemy, break into a warehouse, crack its safes, pack half a ton of binders and compact discs onto a few trucks, and drive them out of the country without being noticed or even pursued. According to reports, they did indeed have Iranian security forces “hot on their tails.”
The fact that the Mossad even discovered the location of the archive is considered an intelligence coup. The archives were hidden in a nondescript building.
“From the outside, this was an innocent looking compound. It looks like a dilapidated warehouse,” said Netanyahu on April 30, 2018, during a now-famous, 17-minute presentation at the Ministry of Defense. A fraction of the more than 100,000 documents and disks were displayed behind him.
“But from the inside, it contained Iran’s secret atomic archives locked in massive files,” he added. “”Few Iranians knew where it was, very few, and also a few Israelis.”
President Reuven Rivlin will present Israel’s most prestigious defense prize to the Mossad and two other security bodies next month in a ceremony at the presidential residence.
The Mossad will be honored as an institution. Though it is safe to assume that the actual team which carried out the James-Bond-style heist will be invited to the closed-door event.
The prize is often given to anonymous undertakings that must remain shrouded in secrecy for decades if not in perpetuity. In this case, however, the prime minister announced the January 2018 operation to the world in a news conference and revealed the archive’s most salient details.
After sharing the intelligence with Israel’s allies, he then reiterated its highlights at the fall opening of the General Assembly at the United Nations.