Military Intelligence Presented Erroneous Assumption on Palestinians

Major General Amos Gilad, head of Military Intelligence's research division when violence erupted in October 2000, persuaded the cabinet to accept an erroneous view of the cause of the violence, and hence the mistaken conclusion that there is no Palestinian partner for peace, according to Major General Amos Malka, who served as the director of MI at the time.

Akiva Eldar
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Akiva Eldar

Major General Amos Gilad, head of Military Intelligence's research division when violence erupted in October 2000, persuaded the cabinet to accept an erroneous view of the cause of the violence, and hence the mistaken conclusion that there is no Palestinian partner for peace, according to Major General Amos Malka, who served as the director of MI at the time.

Malka told Haaretz that Gilad, who today heads the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-security unit, was "a very significant factor in persuading a great many people... [yet] in all the time that I served as head of MI, the research division did not produce so much as a single document expressing the assessment that Gilad claims to have presented to the [then] prime minister [Ehud Barak]. I assert that only after the Taba talks were halted, on the eve of the 2001 election, did Gilad begin to retroactively rewrite MI's assessments."

Gilad's assessment, which was adopted by the country's political and defense leadership, was that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat never abandoned the dream of realizing a right of return for Palestinian refugees, and that his plan was to eradicate the state of Israel by demographic means. The current director of MI, Major General Aharon Ze'evi (Farkash), and former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy share this assessment.

But Malka and other senior intelligence officials dispute Gilad's analysis, saying that it is not supported by any of the documents produced by any of Israel's intelligence agencies.

Gilad, however, believes that his verbal assessments trump the written record. "If I put oral presentations on one side of the scales, and written assessments on the other, the scales will unequivocally tip in favor of the oral presentations," he told Haaretz. "What influences the leaders are the oral presentations - because they don't read."

Malka's criticism of Gilad, which challenges the conventional wisdom of both the leadership and the Israeli public, is shared by Colonel (reserves) Ephraim Lavie, the research division official responsible for the Palestinian arena at that time and Gilad's immediate subordinate. From what Lavie said and wrote following his retirement from the Israel Defense Forces, it is evident that he considers the prevailing Israeli theory of the intifada's causes to be mistaken. In his view, the theory that the Camp David summit exposed Arafat as someone who is uninterested in peace and who aims at Israel's destruction has no basis.

This view is also shared by Ami Ayalon, who headed the Shin Bet security service until a few months before the intifada began, and Orientalist Mati Steinberg, who until last year served as a special advisor on Palestinian affairs to the head of the Shin Bet.

Asked about these divergent views, Gilad responded: "I would have no problem if 1,000 people thought differently than I. That still doesn't mean that they're right."

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