It is an eye-catching episode on the resume of any would-be prime minister: a dangerous, youthful stint as a spy in one of the world’s most respected and feared secret services.
True to her training, Tzipi Livni, the Israeli leader-in-waiting, has maintained a Sphinx-like silence about her Mossad career in Paris in the early 1980s. Consequently, reports on her service have pegged her as anything from a frontline agent hunting down Arab terrorists across Europe to a mere house-sitter deployed to provide a respectable front for Mossad safe houses in the French capital.
Mossad does not divulge details, but Livni ran substantial risks as an Israeli agent operating in a covert cell in Europe.
“She was in an elite unit,” said Ephraim Halevy, the former director of Mossad, who for security reasons declined to specify which outfit Livni had served in between 1980 and 1984.
“She was a very promising agent who showed all the attributes of a very promising career. She was very well thought of.”
Livni, a fluent French speaker and daughter of renowned Zionist guerrillas, served her time in Paris when the city was a deadly battle-ground in Mossad’s covert war with Palestinian militant groups and Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions.
One Israeli former intelligence source said the 22-year-old Livni had been recruited into Mossad after her National Service by a childhood friend, Mira Gal, who herself served for two decades in the agency and who now works as her ministry bureau chief.