Shlomo Argov

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Shlomo Argov
Born14 December 1929
Died23 February 2003 (aged 73)

Shlomo Argov (Hebrew: שלמה ארגוב‎‎; 14 December 1929 – 23 February 2003) was a prominent Israeli diplomat. He was the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom whose attempted assassination led to the 1982 Lebanon War.

Early life and education[edit]

Argov was born in Jerusalem in 1929, to a family that had lived in Jerusalem for seven generations. As a teenager, he joined the Palmach, the elite force of the Haganah. During the 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine, he was wounded in the Battle of Safed. When Israel was established and the 1948 Arab–Israeli War broke out, Argov joined the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).[citation needed]

In 1950, he completed his military service and went to the United States to study, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in 1952. While studying, he worked part-time at the Israeli Embassy, where he met his future wife Hava. Afterwards, he went to study in the United Kingdom, and received an MA in international relations from the London School of Economics in 1955.[1]


Argov then returned to Israel, where he spent several years working in the Prime Minister's Office under David Ben-Gurion.[1]

In 1959, Argov joined the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and was appointed consul-general in Lagos, Nigeria, and was later transferred to the Israeli Embassy in Ghana. In 1962, he served at the Israeli consulate in New York City. In 1965, he became Deputy-Director of the American Desk at the Foreign Ministry, and was posted at the Israeli Embassy in Washington in 1968. From 1971 to 1974, he served as ambassador to Mexico, and was appointed Deputy Director-General for Information of the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem when he returned. In 1977, he was appointed ambassador to the Netherlands, and served until 1979.[1][2]

In September 1979, he was appointed ambassador to the United Kingdom by Prime Minister Menachem Begin. During his three years as ambassador, he "forcefully and articulately put forward Israel's cause to a generally hostile Foreign Office and media". He was highly admired by British Jews, and often visited Jewish communities.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Argov had three children with his wife Hava: son Gideon and daughters Yehudit and Edna. Hava died in May 2002.[1]

Attempted assassination[edit]

On 3 June 1982, three men, Hussein Ghassan Said, Marwan al-Banna, and Nawaf al-Rosan approached Argov as he got into his car after a banquet at the Dorchester Hotel, in Park Lane, London.[3] There is another report giving the number of men as four.[4] Armed with a WZ63 machine pistol, Hussein Ghassan Said shot Argov in the head.[5] Argov was not killed, but he was critically injured.[4] He was rushed to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, where he was transferred to a specialist unit and underwent emergency brain surgery. He remained in a coma for three months.[6]

The attempted assassins were members of Abu Nidal's organisation, a Palestinian splinter group which was hostile to the PLO. The attack was ordered by the Iraqi Intelligence Service.[7][8][9] Following the attack, the assassins drove to the Iraqi embassy in London, where they deposited the weapon.[10]

Al-Banna was Abu Nidal's cousin, Said a Jordanian and the third of Argov's would-be assassins, Al-Rosan, was a Baghdad intelligence colonel. The gunman, Said, was shot by Argov's bodyguard and also sustained serious head injuries and, like Argov, survived.[11] The two uninjured assassins fled the scene but were arrested shortly afterwards in a London flat. It appeared that they were next planning to kill Nabil Ramlawi, the PLO representative in London.[3]

The attackers were convicted, and sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from 30 to 35 years. Subsequently two became mentally ill, and were transferred to high security hospitals in the UK.[12] There was some speculation in Israel at the time that the British security services were aware of the plot.[13] Lord Alton of Liverpool failed to draw the government into commenting on the speculation when he raised the issue in the House of Lords.[14]

The attempt on Argov's life was used by Israel as grounds for the 1982 Lebanon War.[3] This was intended by the Iraqi authorities, who calculated that an Israeli war in Lebanon would be detrimental to the rival Ba'athist government in Syria—whether Syria intervened on behalf of the Palestinians or not.[15] Israel invaded Lebanon on 6 June. The war saw the expulsion of the Palestine Liberation Organization from Lebanon, although the would-be assassins were not members of the PLO, and their leader, Abu Nidal, had even been sentenced to death in absentia by a PLO court.[16]

Later life[edit]

After being in a coma for three months, Argov regained consciousness, and was returned to Israel. There, he was placed in the rehabilitation ward at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem as a permanent patient.[3][17] Though he could not move, he remained lucid, and had newspaper headlines read to him for fifteen minutes at a time. He became devastated when he realised the full extent of his condition. After about three years, he was never fully conscious, and he eventually went blind.[18]

Argov was deeply distressed that the attack on him had provoked the Lebanon war. In 1983, he dictated to a friend the following statement from his bed in Hadassah Hospital. The statement was later passed on to the Haaretz newspaper: "If those who planned the war had also foreseen the scope of the adventure, they would have spared the lives of hundreds of our best sons ... They brought no salvation ... Israel should go to war only when there is no alternative. Our soldiers should never go to war unless it is vital for survival. We are tired of wars. The nation wants peace."[18]


Argov died at Hadassah Hospital in 2003 aged 73 from the injuries inflicted in the attack.[3] He had been paralysed and in permanent hospital care for 21 years.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Shlomo Argov". MFA. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  2. ^ "Obituaries". Jewish Ledger. 26 February 2003. Archived from the original on 7 December 2013. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e Joffe, Lawrence (25 February 2003). "Obituary: Shlomo Argov". London. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
  4. ^ a b Sam Katz (25 July 1985). Armies in Lebanon 1982–84. Osprey Publishing. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-85045-602-8. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  5. ^ West, N. (2017). Encyclopedia of Political Assassinations. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 14. ISBN 978-1-5381-0239-8. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  6. ^ Joffe, Lawrence (25 February 2003). "Obituary: Shlomo Argov". the Guardian. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  7. ^ Cradle of Conflict: Iraq And the Birth of Modern U.S. Military Power. p. 5. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  8. ^ Ensalaco, Mark. Middle Eastern Terrorism: From Black September to September 11. p. 133. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  9. ^ Goodarzi, Jubin. Syria And Iran: Diplomatic Alliance And Power Politics in the Middle East. p. 61. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  10. ^ Blight, James G.; et al. (2012). Becoming Enemies: U.S.-Iran Relations and the Iran-Iraq War, 1979–1988. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 104. ISBN 978-1-4422-0830-8.
  11. ^ "BBC ON THIS DAY: Israeli ambassador shot in London". BBC. 3 June 1982. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
  12. ^ "Lords Hansard Written Answers text for 13 Mar 2003". Hansard. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
  13. ^ Middle East Intelligence Bulletin- A monthly publication of the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon See: 'Intelligence Briefs' 9 June 1999 'UK Intelligence Was Warned of 1982 Argov Assassination' Ronald Waldron, a British intelligence agent who reportedly infiltrated Palestinian terrorist organizations, told Ha'aretz that he had passed on detailed information about the assassination plot to his superiors. Archived 1 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "Lords Hansard Written Answers text for 8 July 1999". Hansard. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
  15. ^ Schiff, Ze'ev; Ya'ari, Ehud (1984). Israel's Lebanon War. Simon and Schuster. pp. 99–100. ISBN 0-671-47991-1.
  16. ^ Patrick Seale, Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire, Hutchinson, 1992, p. 98.
  17. ^ Paul Lashmar and Shraga Elam (19 June 1999). "MI5 was feuding with Mossad while known terrorists struck in London". The Independent. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  18. ^ a b "Shlomo Argov". The Telegraph. 24 February 2003. Retrieved 16 January 2013.

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