Between Little Isser and Big Yuval

The Shin Bet security service has become a breeding ground for politicians of all stripes.

The Shin Bet security service has become a breeding ground for politicians of all stripes. They were given binoculars, and they developed viewpoints, albeit not as an organized group - not a Shin Bet cult - but across all lines of Israeli society. Without waiting for retirement and an official cooling-off period from the operational ranks before joining those of decision shapers, in comes Yuval Diskin, two years into his five-year tenure, and ups the risk that the security service will become involved in politics through his puzzling statement that the Shin Bet is in charge of protecting the "fundamental values" of the State of Israel.

The Shin Bet does not have the influence it had in the days of "little Isser." Isser Harel eavesdropped on political parties and their leadership in the service of the ruling Mapai, he was a cohort of prime ministers David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Sharett, who meddled in government appointments and who made alliances at the top of the hierarchy (with Golda Meir and Haim Laskov against Shimon Peres and Moshe Dayan, and intervened in the relationship between Yael Dayan and Uri Avnery) and who policed, somewhat, the black market.

Big Yuval comes in the footsteps of Little Isser: It was not enough for them to be preoccupied with terror attacks, espionage, the assassination of VIPs and countering conspiracies to overthrow the regime. Isser found the kidnapped Yossele Shumacher, Yuval is still looking for Gilad Shalit.

Diskin, a little bored with Shin Bet activities, took on yet another mission: securing the twin offspring (Jewish and democracy) of the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps the other name of the security service is the Declaration of Independence Guard.

In his indirect letter to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, through the Attorney General's Office, Diskin quotes from the law on the Shin Bet, authorizing the security service to protect, among other things, "democracy and its institutions against the threat of subversion."

For Diskin, the definition of subversion includes "seeking to change the fundamental values of the state by revoking its Jewish and democratic character."

Someone has apparently misplaced the dictionary of the Shin Bet. They don't seem to distinguish between "democracy and its institutions" and "values." Even worse, they ignore the difference between three words sharing the same root in Hebrew: to move toward something, to subvert and underground organization. In most other languages, these words are not at all related.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz shares Diskin's hope that his novel interpretations will be approved by the Supreme Court. As far as they are concerned, it is justified to spy on those who call for change to the state's Jewish or democratic character, just in case some criminal subversion is hiding behind all that is permissible to say. Strange justification. If there are well-founded suspicions of criminal behavior, an investigation is mandatory; if there is no such suspicion, then the pretext is dubious and can be used to target any citizen or group.

Mazuz is allowing Diskin to gather intelligence on organizations that are flirting with undermining democracy. They say democracy, but they mean demography. The Shin Bet (it is unclear how) would like to take action to safeguard the Jewish majority. Moles in the mohalim association? Dropping bicarbonate of soda in the water pipes of Umm al-Fahm? And if there are 61 MKs in the Knesset who decide to revoke democracy or Jewish character, the Jewish Defense League, aka the Shin Bet, will block their vote. The Shin Bet will implement a quantitative test - perhaps even a qualitative test along the lines of "who is a Jew?" - as the demographic balance continues to decline toward the point where Arabs outnumber Jews.

Following this train of thought to the absurd, then the "voluntary" transfer of Arab Israelis, in principle, is not unacceptable. That's one way of ensuring there will not be more Arabs than Jews in Israel. Preserving the values of the state is too important a matter to be left to the Shin Bet or any other similar organization. The executive branch should not be dealing with any values except Value Added Tax. Values are set by society and are translated into legislation in the Knesset. The Shin Bet, with ideological pretension, may turn into the Inquisition with the notorious Torquemada at its head. If the Shin Bet is really worried about democracy, it need look no further than the tip of its nose. Corruption in government is political subversion; indeed, let the Shin Bet help the police and the state prosecution in doing away with the corruption of prime ministers and ministers.