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Thursday, May 28, 2015

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Former spymaster sees long war ahead against Islam

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Efraim Halevy

WINNIPEG — As a former director of Israel’s Mossad, Efraim Halevy knows how to keep secrets. But, on the other hand, he is not shy about sharing his many opinions about the Mideast conflict and about Israeli.

Halevy is known for sometimes making controversial comments. He has said that Israel should take up Hamas’ offer of a long-term truce and negotiate with the group because the Islamic movement is respected by Palestinians and generally keeps its word. He also said the growing haredi radicalization within Israel poses a bigger risk to Israel than Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And he believes that it will take at least 25 years for the West to win its war against radical Islam.

Halevy will be sharing these and other opinions with members of Winnipeg’s Jewish community when he takes the podium on May 3, as the guest speaker at the seventh annual Sol and Florence Kanee Distinguished Lecture Series, the Jewish Heritage Centre’s major yearly fundraiser.

Halevy’s predecessors on the podium have included historians Sir Martin Gilbert and Deborah Lipstadt, Rabbi Chaim Rozwaski, political commentator David Frum and Halevy’s fellow Israeli machers, Shlomo Avineri, director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry in prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s first cabinet, and Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations.

“I think Efraim Halevy is going to be the most fascinating speaker who we have heard to date,” says Belle Millo, chair of the Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre, who suggested the former Mossad director and author of Man in the Shadows (2006) as this year’s Kanee lecture series speaker. “I had spoken to a number of people who had heard him speak and were greatly impressed,” she says.

 “He has been the confidant of five prime ministers and served as Israel’s ambassador to the European Union in addition to his career in the Mossad.  I think his role in helping to forge the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan was an incredible accomplishment.”

Millo adds that Halevy has been known to speak his mind on numerous issues.  “He can’t be pigeon-holed as left wing or right wing,” she says. “That makes him unique,”

The British-born Halevy, 63, began working for the Mossad in 1961. His Mossad career spanned 28 years, during which he headed three different branches. He became deputy director in 1990. He was appointed Israeli ambassador to the EU in Brussels in 1996. In 1988, following the resignation of Mossad director Danny Yalom in 1998, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Halevy back from Brussels to head the agency.

After leaving government service in 2003, Halevy took up a post as head of the Center for Strategic and Policy Studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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