EXCLUSIVE: Rise and Kill First, set up last year to be developed into a limited series by Keshet International and HBO based on the bestselling Ronen Bergman book about the secret history of Israel’s targeted assassinations, has set Yuval Adler to write and direct its first season. The focus: an unprecedented joint operation of the CIA and Mossad to assassinate Imad Mughniyeh – a Hezbollah co-founder who, with the exception of Bin Laden, topped the CIA and FBI Most Wanted list.
Mughniyeh was purportedly behind dozens of terrorist operations, including the embassy and barracks bombings in Lebanon, multiple kidnappings of Americans, hijacking of airlines, and attacks in Buenos Aires, including the bombing the Israeli Embassy there. U.S. intelligence officials accused him of killing more United States citizens than any other man prior to the September 11 attacks. He was also a close ally of General Suleimani, working with him to export the Iranian revolution to Iraq after the invasion, at the cost of many American lives. The concentrated two year hunt for Mughniyeh in the mid 2000’s became one the largest, most expensive and complicated in history. They got him as he exited a restaurant and walked past a parked car in Damascus in 2008, with Mossad agents triggering a bomb that had been placed in a spare tire. Mughniyeh was killed instantly.
The series will be executive produced by Adler, Keshet International’s Avi Nir, Peter Traugott, Alon Shtruzman, and the author. Adler’s credits include the films The Operative and Bethlehem, and he directed two episodes of Shooter. He wrapped the Joel Kinnaman/Noomi Rapace drama The Secrets We Keep for AGC Studios and Lorenzo di Bonaventura Productions.
When the book was acquired by Keshet and HBO, the ambition was to use Rise and Kill First as a way to create and co-produce an English-language limited series shot in Israel that could be reprised by covering different missions. As evidenced by the recent drone strike against Suleimani in Iraq, there seems to be no shortage of these to focus upon. An investigative reporter for the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth and a New York Times Magazine staff writer, Bergman took the book’s title from 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 done pre-emptively to take out enemies and suicide bombers before they strike.
Bergman had unprecedented cooperation from many former Israeli prime ministers, along with more than 1000 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.
Among the prolific Keshet’s productions is Hatufim (Prisoners of War), the Israeli drama that was the basis for the Emmy-winning long running Showtime series Homeland. which heads into its final season.
Adler and Keshet International are repped by WME.