Muki Betser: Legendary Israeli Commando

Muki Betser, born on October 14, 1945, is a renowned figure in Israeli military history, known as the founder and first commander of Sayeret Shaldag and one of the leaders of the special forces in Operation Entebbe.

Family Background

Betser was born and raised in the Beit She'arim kibbutz in Israel. He comes from a family with deep roots in the country's history, being the grandson of Israel Betser and Shifra Beitstrom, who were among the founders of the Nahalal settlement during the Second Aliyah (Jewish immigration wave). His father, Nachman Betser, was a member of the Haganah and part of the nighttime defense units in Ord Wingate's Special Night Squads.

Military Career

Muki Betser's military career primarily revolved around his service in elite units of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Upon his conscription in 1964, he volunteered for the Paratroopers Brigade, served in the Paratroopers Reconnaissance Unit, and completed the IDF's Commando course. Afterward, he was appointed as a unit commander in Sayeret Shaked and participated in the Six-Day War in central front battles.

Following the war, at the request of Matan Vilnai, Betser returned to the Paratroopers and became the deputy commander of the unit until he was severely wounded during the Karameh Operation. After recovering, Betser played a significant role in establishing the security system for El Al Airlines.

Betser returned to active military duty and served as a platoon commander and later as the commander of the reconnaissance course in Sayeret Aguz. He also participated in the raid on the Lebanese village of Al-Khiyam on January 31, 1971.

Subsequently, he was sent to Uganda on an IDF mission, where he was involved in training the Idi Amin's paratroopers. Ehud Barak, who was the head of Sayeret Matkal at the time, and Yoni Netanyahu, who was familiar with Betser from their paratrooper days, recruited him into the unit.

During Operation Entebbe in July 1976, before the operation itself, Betser served as the commander of the IDF's reserve unit for Sayeret Matkal. During the operation, he was the deputy to Yoni Netanyahu and led the assault on the old terminal. Betser was one of the first commandos to breach the terminal and neutralize the terrorists. After Yoni Netanyahu was gravely wounded, Betser assumed command of all unit forces and successfully completed the operation, rescuing the hostages.

After Operation Entebbe, a heated dispute arose between Betser and the Netanyahu family regarding their respective roles in the operation. Betser claimed that Yoni Netanyahu had been actively involved in planning the operation while he was away on training exercises in Sinai, contrary to what was stated in Shimon Peres's book, "Yomam Entebbe." Several years later, Shimon Peres acknowledged that Yoni Netanyahu had indeed been part of the planning team during his time in Sinai and sent a letter of apology to Betser.

In 1991, an additional conflict emerged within the Netanyahu family after the publication of Iddo Netanyahu's book, "Yoni's Last Battle." This book portrayed Betser in a negative light.

In 1996, Betser co-authored a book titled "Secret Soldier: The True Life Story of Israel’s Greatest Commando" with writer and journalist Robert Rosenberg. In this book, Betser shared his version of events. Many of the participants in Operation Entebbe chose not to become embroiled in the controversy surrounding the operation. Matan Vilnai, who served as the deputy commander of the commandos during the operation, commented, "When Yoni was killed, the operation could easily have failed. Its success was due to Muki Betser and his men who pressed forward."

In 2005, Betser, together with Dr. Yossi Leshem, established a pre-army preparatory program called "Manashim Klu" ("Singing Eagles"). This program, based at Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael, offers an educational environment surrounded by abundant natural, historical, and archaeological sites along the Mediterranean coastline, the Hula Valley bird reserves, Nahal Taninim, Caesarea, and Mount Carmel National Park. The program focuses on developing social leadership and operates in collaboration with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI).

Muki Betser, married for the second time, is a father of three and resides in the communal settlement of Tamar, located in the Lower Galilee, which he was instrumental in founding. One of his sons is Shaul Betser, a producer and director, who also served as a fighter in Sayeret Matkal. Betser holds an MBA and is involved in project development, including establishing neighborhoods in Ramat Yishai, leading the Neve Ganim neighborhood project in Kiryat Motzkin, and co-founding the Neve Ziv settlement in the Galilee.

Reviews (0)
No reviews yet.