The abbreviation of Agaf ha-Modi’in (Information Wing), Aman is the intelligence branch of the Israel Defense Forces and, with an estimated staff of 7,000, is the country’s largest intelligence organization. Founded in 1948, it was headed initially by Isser Be’eri, who previously had headed the Shai. Born Isser Birentzweig, Be’eri adopted a Hebrew name and established a ruthless reputation, ordering the field court martial and execution of a suspected spy, Capt. Meir Tobianski, who was later vindicated and posthumously declared innocent of the charges.
Be’eri was arrested in December 1948 and convicted of complicity in the torture and death of an Arab double agent. He was replaced by Chaim Herzog, an Ulster-born British intelligence officer who was later to be elected president of Israel, but Herzog’s successor, Benyamin Gibli, was forced to resign in 1955 when Aman was implicated in a plot to plant bombs in Egypt.
Although less well known than the Mossad, Aman has undertaken many high-risk operations, including the acquisition of a cargo of 200 tons of uranium yellowcake aboard the Scheersburg A to supply Israel’s covert nuclear program in 1968, and the removal of five missile boats from Cherbourg, France, in 1969 in breach of a ban on the sale of weapons to the Middle East. Aman was also responsible for the successful rescue of 96 Israeli hostages from Entebbe in July 1976 and the seizure and removal of an entire Soviet-made P-12 radar station from Egyptian territory in 1969.
The directors of Aman have been Be’eri (1948–49), Herzog (1949–50 and 1959–62), Gibli (1950–55), Yehoshafat Harkabi (1955–59), Meir Amit (1962–63), Aharon Yariv (1964–72), Eliyahu Zeira (1972–74), Shlomo Gazit (1974–78), Yehoshua Saguy (1979–83), Ehud Barak (1983–85), Amnon Lipkin-Shahak (1986–91), Uri Sagie (1991–95), Moshe Ya’alon (1995–98), Amos Malka (1998–2001), Aharon Ze’evi (2001–05), and Amos Yadlin (2005– ).