The Phone Call That Saved Israel
Nasser’s son-in-law was Israel’s most crucial spy in the leadup to war in 1973By Matti Friedman, WSJ
Aug. 5, 2016 4:21 p.m. ET
In the late afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 4, 1973, a phone rang in London. On the line was a tense man who wanted to speak to “Alex” about “a lot of chemicals.” Alex’s name wasn’t Alex and there were no chemicals. What the caller was saying, in an agreed-upon code, was that a cataclysmic war was about to break out in the Middle East. By the end of the weekend thousands would be dead.
The man on the phone, Ashraf Marwan, was an official at the pinnacle of the Egyptian regime, an aide to President Anwar Sadat and the son-in-law of the late, revered leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. He was also a spy for Israel—one whose appearance was the kind of thing “that happens only once in a thousand years,” according to one of the Israeli consumers of his secret reports. The murky man in question, the nature of the game he was playing and the series of events that culminated with his fateful phone call on the eve of the Yom Kippur War, are the subjects of Uri Bar-Joseph’s eye-opening book, “The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel.”
The AngelBy Uri Bar-Joseph
Harper, 372 pages, $29.99
Mr. Bar-Joseph, a professor of political science at Haifa University and an intelligence expert, picks up the trail of the elegant and ambitious young Marwan in the Nasserist Cairo of the 1960s, where he embarked on a promising marriage to Nasser’s daughter, Mona. From there we follow him to swinging London, where he was looking for money, excitement and possibly revenge against his humiliations by his powerful father-in-law, who seems to have considered Marwan a careless bon vivant unworthy of his daughter.