In an article in the Sunday Telegraph (25th August), it recalls that seventeen years ago the Hamas leader, Khalid Mishal, lay dying as poison in his veins began to shut down his vital organs one by one.
At the last moment a shadowy figure emerged handing over a secret antidote that brought him back from near death.
Now, as the war between Israel and Gaza continues to wage (a new ceasefire has since been agreed), that same figure – the former Mossad agent Mishka Ben David – has appealed to Mr Mishal to return the favour: stop taking ‘the most extreme side’ in Hamas and accept a compromise to end the war with Israel, the spy is telling him.
The floor-to-ceiling windows of Mr Ben-David’s living room on a hilltop just outside Jerusalem give a panoramic view all the way to the south of Israel and beyond, where bloody fighting wages on.
‘You can see Gaza from here,’ says the former spy, pointing to a tiny blur in the distance beyond the city of Ashkelon. ‘I can hear the bombardment at night.’
Several weeks ago a more immediate message from Gaza arrived in the form of a rocket that exploded just fifty yards from Mr Ben-David’s dining room table.
‘It was a huge blast,’ he said. ‘All the houses around here shook. All the glass in the windows broke. There was shrapnel everywhere.’
Although Mr Ben-David was with his daughter and his three grandchildren at the time, no one was hurt. But their close shave with death or injury prompted him to appeal to Mr Mishal via a letter published in a newspaper, reminding him of the failed Mossad operation in whose aftermath he had been involved.
‘I thought that it was time to address the rational side of Khalid Mishal,’ he said. ‘And I thought that I had a hand in reviving him.’
In September 1997 a Mossad squad stood in position ready to ambush Mr Mishal in his office in Amman, the Jordanian capital.
‘Khalid Mishal got out of his car and went upstairs through a certain sidewalk from which he entered his office,’ said Mr Ben-David.
Inside the office, the two operatives were waiting for him ready to spray him with the substance that was supposed to cause his death. But at the same moment Mr Mishal heard his young daughter calling for him.
‘So Mishal turned around and instead of getting the poison in his neck he got it in his ear.’
Seeing the two Mossad operatives, Mr Mishal called for help – and very quickly the Mossad agents were incapacitated, then arrested.
But the poison had already begun spreading throughout Mr Mishal’s system, slowly inducing partial paralysis on the way. The Hamas leader was rushed to a Jordanian hospital and hooked up to a life-support machine but, despite the best medical services available, was given only a few days to live.
At this point King Hussein of Jordan unleashed his fury upon Israel, a country with which only two years previously he had signed a peace agreement. With the support of Bill Clinton, the then US president, the king issued an ultimatum: Israel must provide the antidote to the poison or the Mossad agents would face trial and likely execution. Waiting in a nearby hotel Mr Ben-David was called on to hand over the antidote.
It is ironic that while Hamas missiles narrowly missed Mr Ben-David’s daughter and her children it had been Mr Mishal’s little girl who unwittingly played a key role in saving her father’s life all those years ago.
The entire story of this failed mission to kill Khalid Mishal was published in 2009 by Quartet, entitled Kill Khalid.
It reads like an extraordinary thriller, stranger than fiction as the hours tick by in search of the antidote to save the Hamas leader.
A page-turner that is unputdownable!