I Volunteer

We find ourselves living under the shadow of constant threat. The forest of alerts is so thick, you can't see where you're going.

Yes, I know this page is not meant for job applications. The classified ads appear in a different section of the paper. But this time my editors were willing to make an exception. The writer of these lines openly proposes his candidacy for a key position, and asks that the keys be placed in his hand.

Have I developed a sudden craving for the prestigious Justice Ministry portfolio, which is already taken? Do I have my eye on the sullied social welfare portfolio, which sits useless? Would I aspire to the highest of the high - the President's Residence? At this stage of my life, my aim is not so high and my ambitions not so lofty. Who do you think I am? Shimon Peres?

The job on which I have my eye is a job that I am willing to do voluntarily, and I am not one of those people whose volunteering costs more than you planned on. Heaven forbid that a pensioner should put any demands on the defense budget that is already inflated as it is. I am not asking to be promoted to brigadier-general either, if that would make someone jealous. Somebody is liable to say that the leap from private to one-star general is pushing it. So I will carry out my duties as a civilian employee of the Israel Defense Forces.

I hereby volunteer to head the army's military intelligence research division. You see? The spirit of voluntarism has not yet disappeared from the land.

It is no military secret that the intelligence community has failed, and tripped up others, one too many times. Some say the condition is chronic. A brief historical survey discloses repeated failures of the kind we are in the habit of calling "fiascoes." It's been one slip-up after another, like someone bumbling around in the dark or staggering blindly through a smokestack.

From 1967 on, our national antennae have failed to sense threats and dangers in time, even those close to home and certain. Does anyone need reminding about the surprise of the Yom Kippur War? Or the surprise of peace with Egypt? Do we need to sprinkle salt on the wounds of the first Lebanon war, which have yet to heal, or the wounds of the Intifada, which are still bleeding?

Even today, there is no sign of improvement. There are very few golden eggs in our intelligence basket. We don't really understand what the president of Syria means when he says yes to a peace process. We don't have a clear enough picture of what Iran is trying to achieve with its nuclear adventure, or what will happen in the region if America pulls out of Iraq (which it will soon).

We don't know what the civil war in the Gaza Strip has in store, if it overflows into the West Bank and seeps into Israel proper, or what is really unfolding on the northern border. Are we talking about disquiet after the storm, before the storm or in the thick of it?

The second Lebanon war has proved for the nth time that conundrums and surprises are not always far from home. They could be over the next hill, right under your nose. People walking in the dark tend to whistle to relieve their fears. Members of the intelligence community keep blowing the whistle to boost their self-confidence. Thus we find ourselves living under the shadow of constant threat. The forest of alerts is so thick, you can't see where you're going.

When raw intelligence data is so sparse, there is no choice but to rely on open sources and the power of analysis. I promise to do this to the best of my ability, drawing on the relatively wide knowledge I have accumulated on the subject of national security, and especially intelligence.

My appointment as head of the research division will not make me immune to mistakes. Haven't I made my share? It will guarantee only one thing: lack of vested interest. Because I am not going to be chief of staff, or even a general, any assessments I lay on the table will be pure and unadulterated - no nips and no tucks. I will not retract my opinions or whitewash them to pander to the public or anyone else.

And because my political career is entirely behind me, and I am only minimally impressed by prime ministers and ministers, I am also prepared to tell them things they may not like to hear.

Have I, by virtue of this declaration, single-handedly ruined my chances of being appointed? The answer is probably yes. If so, I take it as an insult. That's the last time I'm going to volunteer.