The Angel: The Egypt­ian Spy Who Saved Israel

  • Review
By – May 16, 2016

Uri Bar-Joseph has writ­ten two books” under the title The Angel: The Egypt­ian Spy Who Saved Israel. The first book is a bio­graph­i­cal por­trait of Ashraf Mar­wan, loathed son-in-law of Egypt­ian Pres­i­dent Gamal Abdel Nass­er and trust­ed advi­sor (until he wasn’t) of Nasser’s suc­ces­sor, Anwar Sadar. Bar-Joseph argues that Marwan’s life was end­ed when he was assas­si­nat­ed in his Lon­don home (by busi­ness asso­ciates, the Mossad, or Egypt­ian intel­li­gence) while liv­ing out his final years as a wealthy inter­na­tion­al busi­ness­man, effec­tive­ly exiled from his coun­try of ori­gin. The sec­ond book is a thriller of how the Mossad recruit­ed Mar­wan, used the intel­li­gence he pro­vid­ed to defend Israel and Israeli inter­ests abroad — most crit­i­cal­ly dur­ing the Yom Kip­pur War — and then released his iden­ti­ty as a Mossad agent to the world. Both books” are well worth read­ing, the for­mer more so than the latter.

Since it was revealed that Mar­wan was a Mossad agent, the debate over Marwan’s true loy­al­ties has cen­tered on whether he was a dou­ble agent for Egypt­ian intel­li­gence. Bar-Joseph suc­cess­ful­ly con­vinces the skep­ti­cal read­er that an ambi­tious Egypt­ian nation­al, born into a well-respect­ed nation­al­is­tic Egypt­ian fam­i­ly, mar­ried to the daugh­ter of the most revered Arab leader since the twelfth-cen­tu­ry sul­tan Sal­adin, with no known Zion­ist sym­pa­thies or pan-nation­al Arab antipathies, was no dou­ble agent for Egypt­ian intel­li­gence. In fact, Bar-Joseph argues, he will­ing­ly pro­vid­ed, for rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle mon­ey and at great per­son­al risk, reli­able and impor­tant infor­ma­tion to Israeli intel­li­gence over a long peri­od of time. This infor­ma­tion saved many Israeli lives and allowed Israel the oppor­tu­ni­ty to call up reserves dur­ing the Yom Kip­pur War in time to pre­vent the Syr­i­ans from recap­tur­ing the Golan Heights.

Bar-Joseph demon­strates that Mar­wan betrayed his coun­try by effec­tive­ly rebut­ting counter-evi­dence to sug­gest he was a dou­ble agent. The most inter­est­ing parts of this analy­sis occur when Bar-Joseph address­es how Egypt’s response to Marwan’s death — includ­ing the funer­al hon­ors accord­ed him by Sadat’s suc­ces­sor and pres­i­dent of Egypt at the time of Marwan’s death, Hos­ni Mubarak — fur­ther prove that Mar­wan was no dou­ble agent.

Bar-Joseph also delves into Marwan’s per­son­al­i­ty to show how his deci­sion to betray Egypt com­pares with the per­son­al­i­ties and motives of oth­er twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry trai­tors. The best parts of this analy­sis occur when Bar-Joseph shows how Marwan’s ambi­tion, spite, ego (and, of course, oppor­tu­ni­ty) caused him to make the deci­sion to betray his coun­try. These parts could have ben­e­fit­ed from a more thor­ough com­par­i­son to oth­er twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry traitors.

The sec­ond book” reads like the John le Carre nov­el after which it is styl­is­ti­cal­ly mod­eled. A ques­tion that runs through this nar­ra­tive is whether or not the high­est lev­els of Israeli intel­li­gence, mil­i­tary, and gov­ern­ment trust the infor­ma­tion that Mar­wan pro­vides — and how their con­tin­ued skep­ti­cism impacts the Israeli gov­ern­men­t’s deci­sions in the lead-up to the Yom Kip­pur War.

Relat­ed Content:

Adam Hirst is cur­rent­ly an asso­ciate at Rosen­berg & Estis, P.C. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Polit­i­cal Sci­ence from Yale Uni­ver­si­ty, and a law degree from Car­do­zo School of Law.

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