American and Israeli parents found out in recent days that their governments are sending their sons to kill and be killed in inane wars. Paul Pillar - until recently, the CIA's national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia - publicly declared that President George Bush had tweaked assessments in order to justify the war in Iraq. On the same day almost, Israel's Channel 10 aired parts of a lecture in which Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin asserted that the riots in the territories were not premeditated, and that "an Arafat-devised contingency plan did not spark them off."
These statements undermine claims by political and military officials that the intifada was a stage in a plan by Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat to crush the Oslo Accords on the way to the destruction of Israel. Diskin's statements also cast much doubt on the argument that the Palestine Liberation Organization is not, and never has been, a partner, and that since September 2000, Israel has been waging a just and unavoidable war.
Pillar's statements are refusing to step down from the headlines. They have added fuel to the fire of criticism by members of Congress with regard to the war in Iraq. The media, too, aren't letting up when it comes to the misrepresentation regarding the Iraqi nuclear program. And in Israel also, the opposition has been busy, with the right-wing parties pushing through a decision on the establishment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry that will examine whether a number of policemen lost their cool while dispersing a violent demonstration by Torah-backed thugs in Amona.
It goes without saying that the government and the ruling party, which has thrived magnificently on the no-partner theory, did not make a big fuss of the bomb dropped by the Shin Bet chief. And even the left-wing opposition waived the elections gift it received from the head of the organization responsible for intelligence assessments in the territories.
Diskin is not the first to challenge the basic premise on which Israel's peace and security policy has rested ever since Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount. He was preceded by Major General (res.) Amos Malka, head of Military Intelligence at the time of the start of the intifada. In June 2004, Malka told Haaretz that MI did not have a shred of evidence to indicate that Arafat had initiated the riots.
Malka thus confirmed statements made by Colonel (res.) Ephraim Lavie, who headed MI's Palestinian desk, and Dr. Matti Steinberg, then special advisor on Palestinian affairs to the head of the Shin Bet. Both had said that there was no evidence to indicate that Arafat did not want to come to an agreement on the basis of the 1967 borders. Dr. Yossi Ben-Ari, who oversaw the same matters at the Mossad espionage agency, made forecasts in a similar vein.
If Diskin and the others are speaking the truth, Sharon's strategy - Kadima's "guiding light" - is based on a lie. If they are correct, someone has to explain why Israel turned its back on the PLO and the PA, and opted for unilateral moves. If they are right on the button, it means that senior officials in the intelligence community - primarily chiefs of staff Shaul Mofaz and Moshe Ya'alon, with the generous assistance of Major General (res.) Amos Gilad (who erred and misled with regard to the Iraqi nuclear issue) - brainwashed the public with distorted information. And this information continues to attune public opinion to the policy of closures and targeted killings, to the separation fence and unilateral disengagements.
The brainwashing has been so successful that even the rise of Hamas on the ruins of the Palestinian Oslo camp fails to spark questions with regard to the policy of disengagement from Arafat and his successors.
A fundamental review of "facts" based on which the public has been living for more than five years is no less important than an investigation into the murder of Chaim Arlosoroff many years after his death. If it turns out that there is no basis to the claim that Arafat and his camp were and are not interested in an acceptable compromise, the Kadima faithful will have to reconsider their positions. If, however, support is found for the claim regarding a Palestinian conspiracy to destroy Israel - onward to a unilateral disengagement in the West Bank. And let them lie in the Hamas bed they made for themselves.
It is odd that the United States, located thousands of miles from the Middle East, is insisting on making its government accountable for lies and errors with regard to Iraq, whereas here, with the earth shaking under our feet, we are taking issue with Russia.
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