Four Comments on the Situation

The bitter experience of the failed attempt in 1994 to free captive soldier Nachshon Wachsman continues to haunt us. Human life remains sacred to us – wouldn’t it be best to stay patient and get back Gilad Shalit alive?

1. It’s not so terrible that the protest by Yoel Shalit and his girlfriend took place in full view of the dignitaries at Independence Day’s main ceremony. Everyone around the country understands the Shalit family’s pain.

How is it possible, people wonder, that this country, which tracked down Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Qatar, Adolf Eichmann in Argentina and “the Engineer” in Gaza, which avenged suicide bombings in restaurants and buses in Israel, as well as the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, can’t figure out where Gilad Shalit is being held? Where is our cunning audacity? Where are our intelligence experts? Outgoing Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin openly admits this intelligence failure.

True, mighty America, which invested millions of dollars in work with stool pigeons and captives, needed 10 years to find Osama bin Laden. And the real reason they killed him immediately, without a trial and burial, was the fear that Al-Qaida would kidnap Americans and demand an “exchange,” turning the success into a failure. The bitter experience of the failed military attempt in 1994 to free captive Israeli soldier Nachshon Wachsman continues to haunt us. Human life remains sacred to us − wouldn’t it be best to stay patient and get back Gilad Shalit alive?

2. Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan has spoken out twice against attacking Iranian nuclear sites. Once he said Iran wouldn’t attain a nuclear-weapons capability before 2015, three years after the official Israeli estimate. Then, after he stepped down, he declared that the idea of an attack on Iran was fundamentally foolish because “we’re not the world’s policemen.”

It’s interesting that two tough warriors, Ariel Sharon and Rafael Eitan, both ministers in Benjamin Netanyahu’s first government, ruled out the prime minister’s idea of using doomsday weapons in the event of a second attack on Iraq. At the time, Sharon told me personally that precisely these two tough-as-nails soldiers even opposed proposals to “review the subject,” fearing that America would punish us.

The question is, why did Dagan voice his opposition right now? Does he know something we don’t? Or maybe he doesn’t trust the judgment of the people in power? Dagan is a brave soldier, but also a prudent man, and the very fact that he made these statements is a cause for worry. Even the most modest middle-of-the-roader has believed for some time that the “Khomeinis,” the real leaders of Iran, will clip the wings of crazed little Mahmoud Ahmadinejad if his fingers reach for the missile button.

3. After a long period in which Defense Minister Ehud Barak has kept mum, doing nothing more than whispering in Bibi’s ear in the Knesset while covering his mouth so nobody could read his lips, he has suddenly given a stream of interviews on radio, television and in the print media. And he has indulged himself with a few background discussions with the country’s top pundits. He reassures us that Israel faces no major impending threat, despite everything that’s happening around us.

Yet, “there are also certain dangers, and we must remain alert.” Just a few days before the riots erupted in Syria, Barak told Yaron Dekel that Syria’s president was willing to consider a diplomatic agreement. In a radio interview with Aryeh Golan, he warned that a tsunami was approaching, and that we had to be strong.

How would opposition leader Tzipi Livni respond to this? “Wonderful,” she would say. Barak told Channel 1’s Ayala Hasson that Israel needs to respond “from its head, not its stomach” ‏(thereby shamelessly stealing a headline from me‏).

When all his interviews, including a fascinating one in Haaretz, are put together, the question arises, what happened? Well, the tsunami is what happened − a tsunami of polls in which Barak doesn’t draw enough support to make it to the Knesset.

4. We don’t like to deal with the wives of presidents and prime ministers, even though one of them publicly branded me “phlegmatic,” another canceled a subscription to Haaretz because of an article she didn’t like, and a president’s wife responded angrily to criticism I hazarded about an expensive fur hat she bought in New York. There are more stories like that.

I’ve never dealt with “his wife Sara.” Not even when during one of her first trips to London, she demanded that it be written on invitations, alongside her husband’s name, “Madam Prime Minister.”

A British official in charge of protocol said that “with us in Britain there was only one Madam Prime Minister, and that was the ‘Iron Lady,’ Margaret Thatcher.”

The truth is that we also have an iron lady, but the whole world doesn’t need to know about it.