A hint of Maxwell’s service to the Israeli state was provided by John Loftus and Mark Aarons, who described Maxwell’s contacts with Czechoslovak communist leaders in 1948 as crucial to the Czechoslovak decision to arm Israel in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Czechoslovak military assistance was both unique and crucial for the fledgling state as it battled for its existence. It was Maxwell’s covert help in smuggling aircraft parts into Israel that led to the country having air superiority during their 1948 War of Independence.
The Foreign Office suspected that Maxwell was a secret agent of a foreign government, possibly a double agent or a triple agent, and “a thoroughly bad character and almost certainly financed by Russia.” Maxwell had known links to the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), to the Soviet KGB, and to the Israeli intelligence service Mossad. Six serving and former heads of Israeli intelligence services attended Maxwell’s funeral in Israel, while Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir eulogized him and stated: “He has done more for Israel than can today be said."
Shortly before Maxwell’s death, a former employee of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate, Ari Ben-Menashe, approached a number of news organisations in Britain and the US with the allegation that Maxwell and the Daily Mirror’s foreign editor, Nicholas Davies, were both long-time agents for Mossad. Ben-Menashe also claimed that in 1986, Maxwell had told the Israeli Embassy in London that Mordechai Vanunu had given information about Israel’s nuclear capability to The Sunday Times, then to the Daily Mirror. Vanunu was subsequently kidnapped by Mossad and smuggled to Israel, convicted of treason and imprisoned for eighteen years.
Ben-Menashe’s story was ignored at first, but eventually The New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh repeated some of the allegations during a press conference in London held to publicise The Samson Option, Hersh’s book about Israel’s nuclear weapons. On 21 October 1991, Labour MP George Galloway and Conservative MP Rupert Allason (also known as espionage author Nigel West), agreed to raise the issue in the House of Commons under parliamentary privilege protection, which in turn allowed British newspapers to report events without fear of libel suits. Maxwell called the claims “ludicrous, a total invention” and sacked Davies. A year later, in Galloway’s libel settlement against Mirror Group Newspapers (in which he received “substantial” damages), Galloway’s counsel announced that the MP accepted that the group’s staff had not been involved in Vanunu’s abduction. Galloway referred to Maxwell as “one of the worst criminals of the century.”