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David Kimche, an Israeli Adept as Spy and Diplomat, Dies at 82

By: Isabel Kirshner



JERUSALEM — David Kimche, a former Israeli spymaster and senior diplomat who was involved in some of the country’s most delicate foreign escapades, including the Iran-contra affair, which shook the Reagan administration in the 1980s, died on Monday at his home in Ramat Hasharon, a suburb of Tel Aviv. He was 82.
The cause was brain cancer, his wife, Ruth, said.
Mr. Kimche, who was born in Britain, joined Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad, in the early 1950s. Employing a combination of cunning and charm, he climbed the organization’s ranks over two decades to become its deputy director.
In 1980 he moved on to serve as the director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, a position he held for the next six years. He led Israel’s delegations in negotiations with Egypt and Lebanon and worked to reinstate diplomatic ties with African states.
He then continued to work as an ambassador at large, serving as a senior envoy for the Israeli government. He was known for his efforts to advance peace initiatives with the Palestinians. “He was one of the leading figures to strut the stage of Israel in its first 40 years of independence,” said Efraim Halevy, a former Mossad chief who was first recruited to the agency with the help of Mr. Kimche.
In the Iran-contra scandal, Mr. Kimche was a liaison to the White House on behalf of the Israeli government. The United States had authorized Israel to supply weapons to Iran, violating an international arms embargo, as a way to buy the freedom of American hostages being held by Iranian-backed groups in Lebanon. Some of the revenue was funneled to the anti-Communist contra rebels in Nicaragua.
The affair led to inquiries by Congress, a commission appointed by President Ronald Reagan and a special prosecutor as well as the indictment of more than a dozen administration officials.
Mr. Halevy emphasized that the operation had nothing to do with the Mossad.
Often holding unorthodox views, Mr. Kimche encouraged Israeli relations with Christians in Lebanon years before the idea became popular in Israel. More recently he advocated negotiations with the militant Islamic group Hamas.
He later served as the president of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations and pursued peace efforts with the Palestinians. He was a signatory to the 2003 Geneva Initiative, a nonofficial blueprint for an Israeli-Palestinian permanent peace accord.
Mr. Kimche was born in London in 1928, the youngest of nine children, and immigrated to Palestine at the age of 18. He fought for Israel’s independence in the 1948 war and was wounded in the battle for Abu Tor, a strategically important neighborhood of Jerusalem. He lived the rest of his life with a bullet lodged in his leg.
Mr. Kimche earned a doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and attended the Sorbonne. He wrote or helped write several books on the region.
In a eulogy, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Mr. Kimche had “combined elegance, patriotism and sophistication” and “exemplified how to fulfill a public mission.”
In addition to his wife, Mr. Kimche is survived by four children and several grandchildren.