Rafael Eitan was born on 23 November 1926 in the British Mandate of Palestine to Zionists, who immigrated from Russia three years earlier and lived in a small settlement near Tel Aviv. Rafi, who was not yet a teenager, joined the Haganah, the forerunner of the Israeli army, to defend the settlement against Arab attacks, and was later recruited into his more elite branch, the Palmach.
With the Jews pushing the British for an autonomous homeland, his most daunting task was to crawl through sewers to blow up a British radar system on Mount Carmel. It earned him the title of "Rafi the Smelly" to distinguish him from another Rafael Eitan, who later became chief of staff of the Israeli armed forces. Mr. Eitan also played an important role in the smuggling of Jewish refugees from Nazism into Palestine.
Mr. Eitan was twice wounded in the 1948 Revolutionary War. After telling his superiors that he found it difficult to walk in the field, she was assigned to a secret service division. His spy career had begun, although he took time to earn a degree from the London School of Economics.
Over the next few decades, he served as Operation Chief at Shin Bet, Israel's equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and as Mossad's Deputy Operations Chief. In 1965, as an Israeli chemist, he visited an atomic bomb plant in Apollo, Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh. Later it was discovered that a large amount of enriched uranium had disappeared. Some American analysts concluded that it was more than coincidence that Mr. Eitan's visit had taken place at the time of the theft.
In 1985, Pollard, a marine intelligence analyst employed to oversee classified information on global terrorist activities, was arrested on charges of spying on Israel and handing over thousands of documents. He confessed and was sentenced to life imprisonment. After 30 years Mr Pollard, who is now 64 years old, was granted parole and released from prison in 2015.
The Pollard affair weighed on the close ties between the United States and Israel and raised the specter of shared loyalty among some American Jews, even though today, according to United States disclosures of 2013, the allies spied out by the National Security Agency are double the trade routine.
The Israeli officials first tried to portray the Pollard case as a rogue operation on the Mossad. However, Shimon Peres, the then Israeli Prime Minister, publicly apologized and allowed Foreign Ministry officials to question Mr. Eitan, who had been the terror adviser to a former Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, and oversee the spying of Mr. Pollard. Mr. Eitan later told journalists that he had acted with "permission and authority."