At least 100 World Bnei Akiva olim (immigrants to Israel) and donors were surprised to learn last week that Israel’s very first military intelligence organization was partly responsible for helping obtain the Balfour Declaration.
The information came out at a World Bnei Akiva (WBA) event held at the home of Sarena and David Koschitzky last week to honor the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.
Brig. Gen. Ya’acov Amidror, formerly the National Security Adviser and chairman of the National Security Council, was the guest of honor at the event.
In his opening remarks, Amidror mentioned a unique connection that existed between his own family and Rivka Aharonson, the younger sister, whom he used to visit as a child.
Amidror also described the important but little known role of Aharon Aharonson, one of the founders of the NILI organization.
NILI’s intelligence activity was critical for British forces that came to capture the land from the Ottomans. Later NILI also helped with the Balfour Declaration as well.
Later he said that it was always clear that NILI was significant as the first intelligence agency of the Jews in the Land of Israel. But until now it was not clear how the British Empire regarded the organization.
Citing research by his colleague Ephraim Halevy, a former head of the Mossad, Amidror said documents from British espionage agency MI6 explicitly mention NILI as an organization that contributed to the intelligence capabilities of the British Mandate and to its capability to conquer Palestinian from Ottoman rule.
When the Balfour Declaration was worded, a draft of the declaration was sent to Aharonson so that he could say what he thought of it, according to the research.
“Such a gesture surely testifies to good relations and relations of honor between the British intelligence and NILI in general, and Aharon Aharonson in particular,” Amidror said.
The NILI organization was a highly important source of intelligence for the State of Israel, and later became a significant tool for the establishment of the Jewish State.
“It is important to understand that our military, as strong as it may be, serves a small country with relatively few resources. But the intelligence apparatus this country has is among the best around.
“Good intelligence enables us to choose and focus on most important and significant points for the country’s resilience, and thus to utilize the limited resources the military has in the best possible way.”