- "I wish I could see his face when he realizes he created not a mole but a monster eager to strike at the heart of Mossad and Israel."
- —Ari Haswari describing Eli in the Season 3 episode, "Kill Ari Part 2".
A Mossad Officer, Eli was sent by his masters as a doctor in the Gaza Strip and befriended an Arab woman named Hasmina Haswari, for the sole purpose of having a son. He needed a boy with the right ethnicity to infiltrate Al Qaeda and of the two's union, a young boy named Ari was born.
From birth, Eli planned to turn his son into a mole in Hamas, he sent Ari to Edinburgh Medical School so that he could become a doctor and work in the refugee camps in the Gaza Strip with his mother. However, Hasmina was killed in an Israeli retalitory strike, and as a result Ari developed a deep hatred for his father. later accepting to join Mossad as an undercover operative in Hamas and Al-Qaeda. What Eli didn't see was that Ari had seen through his scheme and was planning to get his revenge. During his time as a field officer, Eli met and worked with NCIS Special Agent and later Director Leon Vance with the two men becoming close friends after Eli saved Vance's life from a group of assassins as seen in Enemies Domestic (episode).
Later, Eli started to rise through the ranks of Mossad until he reached the position of Deputy Director. He married an Israeli woman and thay had two daughters, Ziva and Talia. Ziva joined Mossad and Talia was killed in a Hamas suicide bombing at the age of sixteen. Eli raised Ziva as a killer, despite her mother's attempt to make sure that neither Ziva or Talia became killers like their father, claiming that it was for her to give a future to his grandchildren. However, similar to Ari, he planned to use her skills to protect Israel even at the cost of his daughter's life.
When Eli realized that Ari was slipping out of his control, Ziva became his control officer, believing that he was innocent of the accusations and hoping to protect him.
However, Ari was planning a major terrorist attack against Israel so he could have his revenge against Eli for the death of his mother. Upon realizing that Ari had gone completely rogue, Eli ordered Ziva to kill him and, according to Vance, gain NCIS Special Agent Gibbs's trust. When Ari was killed, Eli reluctantly assigned Ziva to the newly-created Mossad Liaison Officer position at NCIS. When she started to evade him and refer only to the Mossad Officer-in-Charge in America, he ordered a team of agents to keep an eye on her.
At the end of Season Five, in the episode, Judgment Day Part 2 (episode) Ziva's position as Liaison Officer was terminated by Eli's old friend Leon Vance and she returned to Mossad. To insure that Ziva would remain his agent, Eli ordered Mossad Officer Michael Rivkin to seduce her in hopes to push her to maintain her loyalty to him and Mossad. After an operation which helped NCIS find a mole in their organization, Eli reassigned Ziva to NCIS at the request of Director Vance.
In Legend Part 1 (episode) and Legend Part 2 (episode), Eli played a more promising role. He assigned Rivkin to go to Los Angeles and infiltrate a terrorist cell that was working for Saleem Ulman, a terrorist who had killed one of Eli's Officers.
Desperate for revenge, Eli ordered Rivkin to find Saleem's location and destroy him and his organization. Rivkin was caught by NCIS's Office of Special Projects in Los Angeles (where NCIS's MCRT team was working a joint investigation) and was forced out of the country before he could recover the intel he needed. However, Rivkin was able to kill all of the cell members except for the cell's leader. Eli gave Rivkin a cover as a rogue officer and sent him back to the US. There, Rivkin killed the cell leader and recovered the intel which he passed to Ziva. However, he accidentally killed an ICE agent when spying on an American intelligence summit at the Secretary of the Navy's house. While investigating the ICE agent's death, NCIS Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo discovered that Rivkin was the killer and attempted to arrest him despite not knowing that the ICE agent's death had been an accident.
When he resisted arrest, the two got into a brutal fight that ended with DiNozzo shooting Rivkin in self-defense. Unfortunately, Rivkin's injuries were so severe that he died hours later and as a result, Eli called Ziva back to Israel, and she came with Director Vance, Gibbs and DiNozzo in tow. Eli interrogated DiNozzo and tried to make him admit that he had killed Rivkin out of jealousy. However, Eli had underestimated Tony, and Eli was forced to reveal that he had sent Rivkin back to the US with orders to seduce Ziva.
During a meeting with Vance, Eli told him about Saleem and his plans. It was there in Israel that Eli confronted Ziva about her loyalties, and encouraged her to "make this [her] aliyah" and return to Mossad.
After Gibbs left her behind, Ziva resigned her Liaison position from NCIS and took Rivkin's place on the Kidon Unit to try and stop Saleem but was later captured and tortured for months. Eli ordered a mobilization of Mossad Officers in Somalia, but to what end is unknown. Ziva was held prisoner by Saleem and his men for several months and was tortured for information regarding NCIS but was later saved by Gibbs and his team. Upon returning to America, Ziva resigned from Mossad and applied to join NCIS as an official NCIS Special Agent.
Not wanting to lose his best agent and daughter, Eli sent Officer Ben-Gidon to the US to frame Ziva for the death of a USMC Sergeant who had helped Mossad earlier in the hunt for Saleem, in hopes that she would have no choice but to return to Mossad. Luckily, Gibbs and Vance managed to expose the frame and sent Ben-Gidon back to Israel with a message for Eli: "She's off limits".
Finally realizing the truth and seeing what kind of a ruthless man her father was, as well as the lengths he was willing to go to keep her, and believing that he had abandoned her in the desert, Ziva turned her back on him. She severed her ties to him, saying,"Eli is all but dead to me."
In the episode Spider and the Fly (episode), Eli sends Vance a text message that says: "I found him."
When Eli came to DC for a conference held by NCIS Director Vance, in Enemies Foreign (episode), he is almost killed several times by a Palestinian terrorist group. Meanwhile, he and Ziva argued over Eli's previous actions. Eli, Vance and Eli's bodyguard, Officer Hadar, ended up in an explosion in an NCIS safe house; the only reason why Eli and Vance survived the blast was because the bomb used was exactly the same as the bombs the two made together while in Amsterdam in the 1990s. Hadar died instantly, Vance ended up in the hospital, and Eli escaped with only minor injuries.
In the following episode, Enemies Domestic (episode), Eli recalled his part in NIS Operation Trident in 1991, being the cause of the explosion. It is revealed that NCIS Special Agent Riley McCallister was trying to kill Vance out of jealousy. Eli and Ziva had a surprisingly heartfelt make up before Eli returns to Israel at the end of the episode.
In the Season 10 premiere episode, Extreme Prejudice (episode), Eli did not physically appear, but his voice was heard over the phone when he called Ziva to make sure she was okay after the bombing of the NCIS headquarters by Harper Dearing, and offers to help catch him.
In Shabbat Shalom (episode), Eli returned to Washington D.C. (without back-up or a security team and without anyone knowing where he was) in hopes of . However, Ziva was not convinced that his intentions were pure, and was angered when she found out that he had killed a journalist who saw him arrive at the airport. The two were invited by Director Vance to have Shabbat dinner at his home, but Ziva was angered by something Eli said and got up to leave, and called Gibbs to inform him that Eli was responsible for the journalist's death.
- —Ziva after seeing Eli's dead body.
About a few months later, Eli returned to Washington D.C in the Season 10 episode, Shabbat Shalom (episode) where it was revealed that he had arrived in America without anyone knowing of his visit with the primary reason for his visit being to repair his strained relationship with Ziva, in part by working toward a plan for peace between Israel and Palestine. Ziva did not buy his intentions and later discovered that Eli had murdered a journalist who had seen him arrive at the airport.
Vance invited them to Shabbat dinner at his house but seconds later and while Ziva was talking to Gibbs, gunfire erupted through the house, causing carnage and presumably killing Eli instantly with the impact of the gunfire also leaving Jackie Vance badly injured.
Ziva quickly recovered and ran after the shooter with Gibbs arriving to help her while Tony and McGee arrived at the Vance household. The shooter later committed suicide by poisoning himself when Gibbs and Ziva confronted him which left Ziva deeply frustrated and annoyed.
When both Gibbs and Ziva arrived back at the house, Ziva learnt that her father had passed away in her absence and while cradling his remains which were in a corner, began grieving for him as her colleagues looked on.
Because of the turmoil that would ensue in the Middle East and Israel had Eli's death occurred, the NCIS was also supplied with Presidential orders to investigate the circumstances behind the hit within 48 hours and keep Eli's death a secret until they found out who killed him. The person was later revealed to be Mossad deputy director Ilan Bodnar, who wanted to take over Mossad with the motivation of instigating a conflict between Israel and Iran.
As former Deputy Director as well as official Director of Mossad, Eli had been manipulating his son, Ari and daughter, Ziva from birth in hopes of both of them becoming cold-blooded killers and possibly joining him to defend Israel against attack from any foreign enemies. But Eli's dreams were shattered when both went against him. Ziva headed to America and joined NCIS while Ari went rogue and became a double agent, focusing on avenging his mother's death before being killed by Ziva on Eli's orders.
Eli can appear to be a very cold-hearted and unforgiving man whose main obsession is to protect Israel, no matter what the cost. He is also willing to use interrogation to get information out of his enemies, although DiNozzo was smart enough to catch onto Eli's game and turn it against him in "Aliyah".
However, when traveling to Washington in "Enemies Foreign" and "Enemies Domestic" he appeared to regret allowing his work to consume him. It is implied that despite his seemingly unfeeling exterior, he does care.
Eli's relationship with his last remaining child was a complicated one. He raised Ziva to be a killer and to fight for her country, even if it meant her death. However, he does appear to care for her on a certain level. Eli didn't try to save Ziva when she was Saleem Ulman's prisoner but was willing to frame her to take her back which led to her resigning from Mossad and then applying to become an NCIS agent.
Ziva feels resentful towards her father for having sentenced his only son to death and had barely talked to him since joining NCIS. In Shabbat Shalom, he even states that she had not attempted to see her father in two years. She doesn't want to admit what a cruel and ruthless man he is but is forced to after he tried to frame her for murder. She sent him her resignation via email. Ziva did not have contact with her father after she was rescued from Somalia until the episode Enemies Foreign, when he showed up in Washington D.C. in imminent danger. She remained cold towards him for most of the visit until finally confronting him before he departed for a meeting for world organization directors, questioning his apathy towards the prospect of death and saying that a human man would at least care. He then replied that while he did not have the luxury of expressing his feelings, there was once a time when things were different, "when [his] house was filled with the sound of children laughing."
Later, before returning to Israel, Eli told her that there were times when his work caused a part of him to die and that he wonders if there was ever a chance to get it back. Ziva then said, "Sometimes life surprises you." He kissed her on the forehead, implying that their relationship had somewhat improved.
Ziva revealed to the team that Eli "treats her like more of a Mossad Officer than a daughter."
At the beginning of Shabbat Shalom, Eli met Ziva at her car in an attempt to continue working on their relationship. He was killed at the end of the episode by gunfire before he really got the chance.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs
Eli and Gibbs have a very cold and wary relationship but have only met once in "Aliyah". Despite having a fierce hatred of Ari, Gibbs felt very sorry for what Eli put him through his entire life and came to despise the man, albeit not knowing them. He believes that Eli is a vicious liar as stated in the episode "Probie". When they met in Tel Aviv, Gibbs silently threatened Eli as he was about to interrogate DiNozzo. He was the one who convinced Ziva that her father was a bad guy and was dirty enough to try and kill his own children. Eli also plotted with Leon Vance to deal with Gibbs, not knowing that Vance and Gibbs were working together against him.
Eli and Gibbs are, however, very much alike and both share the same talent for manipulating people.
Eli has a friendship with Director Leon Vance which appears to go back a long way. Vance understands Eli and is possibly the only character on the show to have not underestimated him at some point. He knows Eli well enough to understand his subtle messages and to be put in charge of counterintelligence operations against Mossad. Vance, despite his friendship with Eli, does not trust him and pretends to be his ally within NCIS while he is actually working against him with Gibbs. Leon once tried to shoot him.
It is revealed in "Enemies Domestic" how Vance and Eli met. They met in 1991 in Amsterdam, during NIS Operation Trident. Vance was sent to Amsterdam to eliminate "the Russian" who is later revealed to be Anatoli Zuchov, the man who Gibbs killed in 1999 while on an op with Jenny Shepard and William Decker. Eli warned Vance that the Russian was going to kill him and helped him set a trap for the Russian's hit team.