Israel's 'Last Spy,' Marcus Klingberg, passes away

For some 20 years, Klingberg passed secrets to the Soviets about Israeli scientific advances.

Yaakov Levi,

Research or spy?
Research or spy?
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Moscow's “man in Tel Aviv,” Marcus Klingberg, has passed away at age 97. Klingberg was the best-known – and probably most important – spy the Soviet Union had in Israel, providing his masters with a great deal of information about Israeli scientific advances and weapons development.

Klingberg passed away in Paris, where he had been living since being released from prison and house arrest in Israeli in 2003. He passed away after suffering from several chronic diseases over the past decade.

Klingberg was for years the deputy head of the top-secret Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) in Nes Ziona, and afterwards was head of the Department of Epidemiology there until 1978. In 1969, Klingberg joined the Sackler Faculty of Medicine of Tel Aviv University, and was Professor of Epidemiology and Head of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine from 1978 to 1983. He was also involved in numerous professional organizations, and was considered an upstanding member of the Israeli professional committee.

However, at the same time Klingberg was spying for Soviet Union, apparently passing information about activities in Israel's chemical and biological fields. Israeli security officials estimate that he had been spying actively between 1957 and 1976.

He was caught in 1982 when the Mossad entrapped him with a double agent who had been recruited to spy for the Soviet Union, and was coopted by Israeli security authorities. Klingberg eventually admitted to being a spy and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but was released for good behavior after 15. In 1988, right before the fall of the Soviet Union, an Israeli attorney, Amnon Zichroni, attempted to work out a deal in which Klingberg would be released, and the Soviet Union would find and return Israeli airman Ron Arad, who had been missing since 1982. That deal fell apart.

In 1998, Klingberg was released from prison and sent to house arrest, where he remained for five years. He was finally freed in 2003, and immediately left Israel for Paris. Klingberg claimed that he had spied for ideological reasons, and had not been paid for his efforts. In 2007, he co-authored a book about his career, called "The Last Spy."