EXCLUSIVE: Israeli producer Keshet International has teamed with HBO to option the bestselling Ronen Bergman book Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations. The book is a definitive history of Israel’s covert targeted killing programs of Mossad, Shin Bet and the IDF that have been a staple of Israeli intelligence since the beginning of its statehood in 1948.
The initial intention is for Keshet and HBO to create and co-produce an English-language limited series that will be shot in Israel. The hope is for annual reprises that focus on different missions. The book’s title comes out of the Talmud: “If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.” That has been a cornerstone principle in protecting Israelis from terrorists, and much of that has come through targeted assassinations, many of them done pre-emptively to take out enemies and suicide bombers before they strike.
Bergman is an investigative reporter for the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth and New York Times Magazine staff writer wrote the book with unprecedented cooperation from many former Israeli prime ministers, along with more than 100 interviews from the chiefs of the Israeli defense establishment and Intelligence committee to actual operatives and assassins. This allowed him to chronicle many of the highest-profile operations — some of which succeeded and some of which did not — and with all the ethical and moral dilemmas considered.
Keshet is best known in the U.S. for originating Hatufim (Prisoners of War), the Israeli drama that was the basis for the Emmy-winning Showtime series Homeland. There has been more attention on generating programming from the Middle East, notably Fauda, which covers a similar subject and whose subtitled second season was just released on Netflix.
ICM Partners brokered the book deal and reps the author, whose book was published by Random House last January.