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Lavon Affair

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Pinhas Lavon

The Lavon Affair refers to a failed Israeli covert operation, code named Operation Susannah, conducted in Egypt in the Summer of 1954. As part of the false flag operation,[1] a group of Egyptian Jews were recruited by Israeli military intelligence for plans to plant bombs inside Egyptian, American and British-owned targets. The attacks were to be blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian Communists, “unspecified malcontents” or “local nationalists” with the aim of creating a climate of sufficient violence and instability to induce the British government to retain its occupying troops in Egypt’s Suez Canal zone.[2] The operation caused no casualties, except for those members of the cell who committed suicide after being captured.

The operation became known as the Lavon Affair after the Israeli defense minister Pinhas Lavon, who was forced to resign because of the incident, or euphemistically as the Unfortunate Affair or The Bad Business (Hebrew: עסק הביש‎, Esek HaBish). After Israel officially denied the incident for 51 years, the surviving agents were in 2005 officially honored with a certificate of appreciation by the Israeli President Moshe Katzav.[3]



Operation Susannah and the Lavon Affair turned out to be disastrous for Israel in several ways:

  • Israel lost significant standing and credibility in its relations with the United Kingdom and the United States that would take years to repair. (The encyclopedia of the Arab-Israeli conflict: a political, social, and military history. ABC-CLIO, 2008. p. 610)
  • The political aftermath caused considerable political turmoil in Israel that affected the influence of its government. (Beinin, Joel. The dispersion of Egyptian Jewry: culture, politics, and the formation of a modern diaspora, AUC Press. 2005. p. 111)

In March 2005, Israel publicly honored the surviving operatives, and President Moshe Katsav presented each with a certificate of appreciation for their efforts on behalf of the state, ending decades of official denial by Israel.[10]


  1. ^ Global terrorism James M. Lutz, Brenda J. Lutz 2004 ISBN 0-415-70051-5 pp46,Retrieved 7 June 2011
  2. ^ a b S. Teveth, Ben-Gurion’s spy: the story of the political scandal that shaped modern Israel. Columbia University Press, 1996, ISBN 978-0-231-10464-7, p.81.
  3. ^ Reuters (March 30, 2005). “Israel honors 9 Egyptian spies”. Ynet.
  4. ^ Hahn, Peter L (2004). United States, Great Britain, and Egypt, 1945-1956: Strategy and Diplomacy. UNC Press. p. 187. ISBN 978-0-8078-1942-5. “In late 1954, the Anglo-Egyptian base agreement and American plans to promote a Northern tier security arrangement generated tension between Israel and Egypt. Israeli officials feared that British troop withdrawal from the Canal zone … would encourage Egyptian aggressiveness toward Israel and remove Western leverage to modify Egyptian behavior on issues such as Suez Canal restrictions”
  5. ^ Lappin, Yaakov (08/20/2008). “Binyamin Gibli, Lavon Affair figure, dies at 89”. Jerusalem Post. Retrieved May 25, 2012.
  6. ^ Black, Ian; Morris, Benny (1 June 1992). Israel’s secret wars: a history of Israel’s intelligence services. Grove Press. p. 111. ISBN 978-0-8021-3286-4. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  7. ^ Shlaim, Avi (2000). The Iron Wall. Penguin Books. pp. 117–119. ISBN 978-0-14-028870-4. “Sharett knew that a death sentence would have a disastrous effect at home because the Israeli public had been led to believe that the defendants were innocent”
  8. ^ “The Lavon Affair”. Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2008-10-29.
  9. ^ e.g. Teveth, Shabtai (1974) Moshe Dayan. The soldier, the man, the legend. Quartet Books. ISBN 0-7043-1080-5. Pages 265,266. Still used twenty years later.
  10. ^ “After half a century of reticence and recrimination, Israel … honored … agents-provocateur.” Reuters, 30th March 2005. Accessed 2nd July 2007.

Further reading

External links

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