The bespectacled, stocky man carrying the heavy, bloated briefcase did not dare look behind him. He knew he was being followed, but he didn’t want to give away the fact that he knew that they knew that he knew. Having been involved in the country’s most secret security affairs, he knew what every agent knows: The way to divert suspicion is to be yourself and behave normally; in his case, that meant to go on being the paranoid neurotic he had always been.
At 10:33 A.M. (though it’s not clear in what year − R.D.), the man − we’ll call him E. − entered the lobby of one of the hotels strewn along Hayarkon Street. He stood on one of the stairs that descend to the lobby and looked around nervously. The man he was looking for was sitting a distance away in an armchair and pretending to read a freebie newspaper, which he was holding upside down. This was M., who was also bald, stocky and bespectacled − not the type you would think belongs to the world of security and secrecy (which is, indeed, their most distinctive feature).
In short order the two were joined by the third man. He − we will call him Y. − turned out to be an ageless-looking person with a boyish, small, discreet skullcap seemingly pasted on his hair. The two older fellows got up one after the other, as though by chance, and followed Y. outside.
The truth is that they lost him on Ben Yehuda Street, because of M.’s flat feet. But an hour and a half later they all met in a small safe house, which was camouflaged, for the sake of discretion, as a notorious massage parlor. There, behind a stained plastic curtain and against a background of strange-sounding groans, the three met up with two others who shared their secret: L., who also went by the underground name “Rommel” − a tall man with military mannerisms with receding hair and a high forehead; and N., an affable-looking, late-middle-aged guy with gray hair and a large knitted skullcap.
The five plotters knew what was at stake and what the penalty would be if they were caught. But the sense of mission, responsibility and concern for the fate of the state was bigger than them. They stood on the brink of an abyss and were about to take a fateful step forward, in an act of self-sacrifice for the sake of a better future for all of us. The operation they were planning was highly unusual; some called it “weird,” others “wacky.” But its boldness was never in doubt.
Operation Valkyra (to set it apart from the famous Operation Valkyrie − R.D.) was the plan’s code name. The idea had its genesis about a year earlier, when M. and L. − members of the inner circle of “Bossman” − started to grasp the slippery slope down which the leader was pulling the country. Both were very familiar with the paranoia, fears and incomprehensible arrogance that suddenly gave way to sweat-drenched anxiety attacks. They had noticed that, in the absence of a proper opposition or of a system of checks and balances in decision making, the whole country was hurtling into unknown realms of warmongering, isolation, caprice, unreliability and a Holocaust-like mentality that was liable to turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
While wondering what to do, another figure became one of the sharers of the secret: A., also a member of the innermost circle of the bunker, aka the “bureau.” He suggested an astonishing course of action. Bossman, he explained, along with his dizzying fantasy-filled arrogance, is scared by every threat, moving between grandiose thinking and meek surrenders, and listens to no one yet is sensitive to pressures, especially of “she who must be obeyed.” And because it is she who imbues and hammers home in him all the traits noted above, “We have to deal with the puppeteer and not with the puppet, if you take my meaning.”
“So what are you actually suggesting?” M. guffawed. “That we replace her with a different woman?”
A. was silent. “You said that,” he remarked finally.
The plotters went about their work in the bureau as usual, concealing their bitterness, disappointment and disgust at what was going on. In time they were joined by two more: young Y., who had barely warmed his chair but was already appalled at the events; and N., who was storing up fury over the humiliations and reprimands he sustained from his lady. His defection was of immeasurable value, as he was ostensibly her confidant and thus a kind of mole.
In the meantime, the plan took shape. The idea was this: Since it was impossible to topple Bossman, and that would be pointless in any case − he being a kind of oscillating force between conflicting poles, like Foucault’s pendulum − the smart thing would be simply to reconfigure the weights surrounding him. In other words, to introduce him to a different partner, a pragmatic woman, politically moderate, good-tempered, secular, rational, stable, embracing, warm and possessing a sense of humor and common sense. Is there a lack of such women? The effect this upgraded relationship would have for the fate of Israel and the region was incalculable.
The plotters spent months concocting the plan. Who would the candidate be? How would the opportunity of acquaintence arise? After all, Bossman was as closed, closeted and besieged as the pope in the Vatican: surrounded solely by a circle of religiously observant men and headscarf-wearing women; always under the watchful eye of “our lady of the hill”; and rarely seen in the flesh by anyone from outside his bubble.
It took a year and half of intense discussions before the name of “Cindy” first came up. “Cindy” (or, in her underground code name, Bilharzia Unterwasser − R.D.) was the only natural-blonde agent who was able both to speak English without a Ramat Hahayal accent and did not espouse the ideology of Ramat Migron. The plotters planned to infiltrate her into Bossman’s field of vision, below the radar of the lady, in one of the following ways: as an interviewer for the freebie Israel Hayom or Channel 1 state TV who, during the interview, would supposedly lose a pen under the table; as an admiring U.S. Republican who presses close to shake Bossman’s hand after his speech before Congress, and falls into his arms with the pretext of having broken the heel of her shoe; as a flight attendant who accidentally spills juice on him, thus making him feel a sense of deja vu; or as an Evangelist in a Gog-and-Magog mission who wants to shake Bossman’s hand after becoming convinced that he is the reincarnation of Churchill.
That very night the phone rang in “Cindy’s” house.
Whatever could go wrong went wildly wrong in Operation Valkyra. The meek N. cracked and spilled the goods to the lady in a fit of tears; “Cindy’s” cover was blown and the “Evangelist” was struck on the head by an object that flew at her from the direction of the door; and a mysterious hand locked Bossman in his room for three days under the pretext of “a cold.”
The treachery of the group of five was exposed and their punishment was terrible: Some say they were trussed on strings of a piano; others that they were hung on butchers’ hooks in the Mahane Yehuda market; while according to others, they were even fired. In any event, no one has seen them since. At the end of this holiday season, along with the whole country, we can only wonder “what if.”
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