For Israel's Gatekeepers, Writing an Op-ed Is Not Enough

Those who were partners to the policies that deepen the occupation are not at liberty to criticize the government and go on with their lives.

Akiva Eldar
Akiva Eldar
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Former Mossad head Shabtai Shavit, 2011.
Former Mossad head Shabtai Shavit, 2011. Credit: Moti Milrod
Akiva Eldar
Akiva Eldar

The recent op-ed by former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit (“Former Mossad chief: For the first time, I fear for the future of Zionism,” November 24), reminded me of an interview he gave to the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth in December 2012. Then, Shabtai “discovered” that the odds of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas inheriting the leadership of the Palestinian people from Yassir Arafat were comparable with those of a Samaritan being elected president of Israel. That, because Abbas is Baha’i — a religion, not an ethnic group, that is prohibited in Arab states, where its adherents are considered heretics. So if we get rid of Arafat, Shavit said, there will be no one to fill his shoes. Thus we can rid ourselves of Arafat and, at the same time, “the Palestinian issue will be removed from the international agenda.”

I informed Shavit of his error: The Baha’i faith prohibits permanent residency in Israel, as well as all involvement in partisan politics. The Baha’i World Center in Haifa denied having any ties with Abbas, and Yedioth Ahaonoth acceded to Abbas’ demand that it publish a correction and an apology. But Shavit insisted that Abbas is Baha’i and refused to withdraw this claim. It can be assumed that Shavit did not withhold this “information” from his friend, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, nor his assessment that Arafat’s removal would liberate us once and for all from the Palestinian problem.

Four months later the Arab League announced its peace plan, which offered Israel peace and normalization in return for its withdrawal from the territory it captured in 1967, the establishment of a Palestinian state and a just and agreed-upon solution to the refugee problem based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194. Israel’s government ignored the proposal, the heads of the Shin Bet security service were silent and the Mossad went about its business. Everyone was busy fighting terror and internalizing the “no partner” doctrine and the illusion of a military solution to the Palestinian problem.

Now, some 12 years after the Arab League peace plan was issued, Shavit now proposes adopting it as the basis for talks with the moderate Arab states and as an “Archimedean lever” to halt the “blindness and stupidity” that is leading Israel back “to the age of Bar Kochba and his war on the Roman Empire” and into international isolation.

It is better to wake up late than not at all. Shavit has joined a long list of senior defense and intelligence officials who have taken off their uniforms. “You retire from the security service and then you find yourself a bit, how can I say it, left-wing,” admitted former Shin Bet head Jacob Perry in the film “The Gatekeepers.” Since then he has served as one of the gatekeepers of the most dangerous and right-wing government Israel has ever known, alongside former Likudnik Tzipi Livni. His Shin Bet colleague Avi Dichter contributed to the movie a few sentences of criticism of the militant perspective on the Palestinian problem, and ran to join Likud. Yuval Diskin, the most recent ex-Shin Bet chiefs of the occupation machine, who also did not mince his words about the right wing, flung mud at the “hollow” left but also announced he had no interest in politics.

He who confesses and forsakes his sins shall obtain mercy. But he who says of himself, as Shavit does, “for the first time since I began forming my own opinions, I am truly concerned about the future of the Zionist project,” does not discharge his duty by informing the public of his concerns “about the critical mass of the threats against us.” The public assigns great importance and credibility to the opinions of former members of the intelligence community in everything relating to security and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Those who were partners for many years to the policies of maintaining the status quo and deepening the occupation are not at liberty to criticize the government’s policies and go on with their lives. Those who purport to be the nation’s gatekeepers have a duty to open the public’s eyes every day to the blindness of the politicians, and to sound the alert at every gate of the abyss into which they are dragging us.

The author is a columnist for the Al-Monitor website’s Israel Pulse.

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