The abbreviation of Sherut ha-Bitachon ha-Klali, Shin Bet is Israel’s General Security Service, responsible for internal security within the country’s boundaries. Created in June 1948, Shin Bet was placed under the Ministry of Defense in 1950. In 1952, it gained its own independent director when Isser Harel was succeeded by his deputy, Isi Dorot. Although Shin Bet conducted successful counterespionage investigations, arresting three army NCOs as Soviet spies in 1950 and later identifying Dr. Kurt Sitte, Aharon Cohen, Dr. Israel Beer, Ze’ev Avni, and Shimon Levinson as KGB moles, its reputation as a ruthless counterintelligence organization, occasionally resorting to unorthodox countergang tactics, led to the resignation of Avraham Avituf in December 1980.
Shin Bet was implicated in attempts to assassinate the Arab mayors of some West Bank towns, and there was a similar scandal in April 1984 when two Palestinian terrorists were dragged off a hijacked bus and beaten to death. Shin Bet’s concealment of what had happened led to the resignation of Avraham Shalom in April 1986.
Shalom and seven of his subordinates received pardons in that instance, whereas in July 1997 Yosef Harmelin resigned when Shin Bet covered up the death in prison of a Palestinian prisoner. Shin Bet has been the subject of continuous criticism over its interrogation techniques, and in May 1987 the Israeli Supreme Court condemned the methods it had used to obtain a conviction against Lt. Izat Nafsu, who had spent seven years in prison after being framed at a military tribunal of supplying weapons to terrorists. Shin Bet’s reputation was
further damaged by the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995 by Yigal Amir, a member of the Jewish extremist group Koch, which had been a priority for penetration by Shin Bet.
The directors of Shin Bet have been Harel (1948–52), Dorot (1952–53), Amos Manor (1953–63), Harmelin (1964–74 and 1986–88), Avraham Ahituf (1974–81), Shalom (1981–86), Jacob Peri (1988–94), Karmi Giron (1995–96), Adm. Ami Ayalon (1996–2000), Abraham Dichter (2000–05), and Yuval Diskin (2005– ).