TEL AVIV — Yossi Ginossar, a former senior Shin Bet official and a key envoy to the leadership of the Palestinian Authority for three prime ministers, died January 12 of cancer at age 58.
Ginossar served Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak as a liaison to Palestinian leaders, becoming particularly close to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.
He was among the first Israelis dispatched by the government to open secret contacts with Arafat’s PLO in the mid-1980s. His Palestinian contacts would later lead to charges by critics that Ginossar, a businessman after leaving the Shin Bet, had benefited financially from his relationship with the PA.
Ginossar categorically denied the charges in a wide-ranging interview in the daily Yediot Aharonot last weekend.
Born in 1946 in Vilnius, Lithuania, Ginossar moved to Israel at the age of 11. He was transferred to the Shin Bet from an army desk job and rose through the service to become chief of its investigations bureau and its northern district, which included southern Lebanon.
He was forced to resign in 1985, along with agency director Avraham Shalom, after they and others were found by an inquiry commission to have orchestrated a cover-up of the killing of two captured terrorists.
After leaving the service, he went into business and served as a back-channel government envoy, first for the return of missing soldiers and later for contacts with the Palestinians. His business contacts in the Arab world, which continued during his service as a negotiator, led to charges of conflicts of interest against him and his business partner and fellow negotiator, the Middle East analyst Stephen P. Cohen. An inquiry by Israel’s attorney general found the charges groundless.
“Yossi Ginossar was a devoted contributor to Israeli national security over his whole life, both as a member of the security establishment and as an envoy to the Palestinian leadership,” Cohen said.