Middle East Peace Initiative | The Jerusalem Advance Team

December 1977

When I left RCO Karachi the repair bench was clear of radios. My cohort Al was happy. After returning from Riyadh next week Al hadn’t planned to go anywhere during the holidays other than attend a Christmas Thai dinner at the Thai Consulate General. I gave my servant Basheer a couple of hundred rupees extra on his salary. He beamed a wide smile when I told him to go ahead and take the remaining sugar and flour supplies on hand (I’d be gone over a month).

<feature photo by gettyimages.com

I had flown into Athens and then on to Tel Aviv via EL AL, a very professional airline. Surprisingly, one of the S.Y. (U.S. State Department Security) agents met me at arrivals. His named was Halliday. He had been assigned to help me install the radio gear that would encompass the temporary radio net to be used by S.Y. in support of the protective detail to safeguard Secretary Vance and his entourage during the initial Middle East peace talks

Tel Aviv

tel-Aviv-1970s
Tel Aviv-Yafo 1970s by Britannica.com

Although it was apparent that Agent Halliday didn’t relish the task of escorting me around, he took it professionally. Before introducing me to our driver, an older but energetic Israeli named Ben, he warned me about revealing sensitive information in our conversations. Ben, who had retired from Israeli Intelligence several years ago, had become a professional driver after dealing with government officials and foreign dignitaries.

Halliday said in front of the Israeli, “Ben knows Tel Aviv and Jerusalem like the back of his hand.”

“About how far is Jerusalem?” I asked Agent Halliday as the car sped away from Ben Gurion Airport.

Both Halliday and the driver Ben answered at the same time. Halliday said, “About thirty miles.”

Ben had said, “A forty-five minute drive.”

“Thank you,” I said, and Agent Halliday glanced at me with an expression that said, “Is this guy going to be a pain in the ass?”

Agent Halliday had Ben drop us off at the Tel Aviv Hilton Hotel, where all the members of the protective team would be staying. As we walked into the lobby Halliday said the S.Y. had a command post on an upper floor and that my radio equipment from SECSTATE had been stowed there.

hilton-hotel--tel-aviv-israel-
Tel Aviv Hilton Hotel by alamy.com

After checking into my nicely appointed room I met Halliday at the command post penthouse room. He introduced me to the Agent-in-Charge, a heavy-set guy named Blankenship. He, of course, was all business and welcomed me, restating that Agent Halliday would be my right hand man.

I should mention at this point that it could not be overstated how important that radio communications was for S.Y. They depended on my radio network (a system of base stations and repeaters) to operate their handheld radios worn underneath their jackets (along with a firearm). I provided them with a surveillance kit—a hidden microphone and earpiece.

Halliday introduced me around. I recognized two faces from the Paris detail last year, one of which was cleaning his Glock firearm. When Halliday introduced Agent Solvano I was shocked. Not only was she a female, but quite attractive.

The first order of business for me was to install a base station radio in the command post. I found a vent with a hand crank in the penthouse bathroom. It provided enough space to snake an RF cable through. The cable connected a base station in the living room to an antenna up on the rooftop. Agent Halliday had located a building maintenance man to take us topside. I was able to view the entire city from the Hilton’s rooftop. The agents were going to experience very good radio coverage.

An hour later I had the base station equipment installed and tested. The Agent-in-Charge got all excited that they were able to make contact with an advance agent well over half way to Jerusalem. When they lost radio contact a few minute laters I told Halliday and the AIC that due to the hilly terrain I couldn’t guarantee contiguous radio coverage from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I expected to install a repeater somewhere between the two cities and a second base station at the SY post in Jerusalem.

Agent-in-Charge Blankenship said, “You’re going to have to wait until tomorrow to tackle Jerusalem commo. We haven’t secured our post there yet.”

Since I had tomorrow and part of Friday to finish my work before Secretary Vance arrived on Saturday, the delay shouldn’t pose a problem. “Tomorrow, then.”

With not much else to do I dumped a pile of surveillance kits on the coffee table. The agents scarfed them up like they were candy bars. Agent Halliday suggested I take some personal time and return to the command post this evening when the agents would be running advance routines.

“I raised my handheld and said loud enough for everyone to hear, “I’m on Channel One.”

The way it worked was that Channel One was point-to-point commo. All agents heard all conversation over this channel. Channel Two was reserved for the radio repeater (if and when I got one installed). Channel Three was a more restricted channel, usually for the A.I.C.’s discretion. Channel Four was allocated for radio techs only.

Highway One to Jerusalem

The following morning our Israeli driver Ben picked us up at eight a.m. sharp outside the Tel Aviv Hilton. Nothing unusual had happened last evening. The Tel Aviv radio checks were for the most part successful. Afterwards, I turned down Halliday’s offer to go out to dinner with Agent Solvano as a threesome. I thought it would be uncomfortable and in the back of my mind wondered in Halliday might be using me as a quasi-chaperone in case his cohorts questioned their rendezvous.

Agent Halliday arrived juggling a bagel oozing with cream cheese and a large coffee. I had awoke at six and opened up the Hilton’s breakfast buffet. Driver Ben took the opportunity to boast into the rearview of his cousins bagel factory north of Tel Aviv and how he would swing us buy there for a treat one of these mornings.

My newfound partner, not appreciative of our driver’s boisterous voice this early in the morning said, “Ben, head to Jerusalem… and we’re in no hurry.”

Yesterday, Ben had made it from Ben Gurion to the hotel in record time, as if he had something to prove to us.

By the looks of Halliday I wondered if he had been out on the town with Agent Solvano last night. Was fraternization within the ranks frowned upon in S.Y.? As far as I knew she was the only female in the service. If so, Agent Halliday was in uncharted territory.

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