Our Kind of Traitor
by Uri Bar-Joseph, translated by David Hazony
Harper, 384 pp., $29.99
"I am not a fan of spy thrillers,” Uri Bar-Joseph said recently. “The only good spy novel author is John le Carré.” That gives readers fair warning not to expect exploding wristwatches and car chases from the Haifa University professor and former intelligence analyst’s latest book, The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel. Even the subtitle might be a bit inflated, he said, since there’s no way of really knowing what the outcome of the Yom Kippur War would have been without the spy code-named The Angel. What Bar-Joseph does offer is a comprehensive account of how a well-placed Egyptian became Israel’s most valuable intelligence asset, and how disagreements between Israeli spymasters over the information he provided ultimately led to his death.
When Bar-Joseph, then a young reserve soldier in the IDF, was called up at 2 p.m. on October 6, 1973, he had no way of knowing that an Egyptian spy’s early warning was what triggered his mobilization. It was only in 1988, when he was asked to serve his reserve duty by writing a study of the Yom Kippur War, that he became aware that some of the intelligence could have come from only a very high-level Egyptian source.