The Test of a Shin Bet Chief

Dichter's invitation to join the elite of Sharon's party shows that not only has he abstained from warning of the ramifications of the "no-partner" policy, but he is reconciled to it.

Shimon Peres - first in the Labor Party, now in Kadima - warned/threatened over the weekend that if Hamas takes control of the Palestinian Authority, the road map "will be brought into question." Let's set aside the issue of whether there has been a time when the road map plan, the last vestige of the peace process, has not been in question. Let's assume that a peace agreement with the Palestinians was and still is a top-priority strategic interest of the State of Israel. Who, according to the Nobel Peace Prize winner, is responsible for the flourishing of the zealous Islamic camp at the expense of the pragmatic secular camp? Who needs to pay for the damage?

Three people were involved in the operation that aimed to assassinate the Palestinian "partner." And the payback? Nearly guaranteed victory in the elections. More than enough has been written about the contributions of two of them, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. The third partner, Avi Dichter, is being accepted into politics like a newborn baby. Everyone is waiting obsequiously on him, singing his praises and ignoring his flaws. He is even freed from the nuisance of dealing with primaries. The only question that just may bother him is whether the big boss will appoint him as the defense minister or only as the public security minister - who will, among other things, be responsible for the Shin Bet security service he used to head.

Dichter is considered the most successful heir of Kadima, primarily and perhaps solely because of the all-out war he waged against Palestinian terror. However, a Shin Bet chief is not assessed by the number of Israeli civilians who were killed during his term of office, and not even by the number of terror attacks his organization thwarted. The Shin Bet and the Israel Defense Forces are assessed by their ability to restrain terror without damaging the politicians' room to maneuver. Hamas' takeoff - like the decision to abandon the path of negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization in favor of a unilateral withdrawal - is a strong indication that this maneuvering room has shrunk to nothing. The Qassam fire from the Gaza Strip and the increasing chaos in the territories since the implementation of the disengagement plan necessarily generate nostalgia for the Oslo Accords and the era of Yasser Arafat.

It's clear that Israeli political officials themselves must not be released from taking responsibility, and the same goes for the Palestinian leadership. Nonetheless, Dichter and his partner, former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon, are the ones who orchestrated the policy of aggression toward the civilian population in the territories. The same approach, which is meant to demonstrate the "price of losing," continues to attract people from the peace camp to the organizations that promise paradise to people who have nothing to lose.

The most recent survey conducted by pollster Dr. Khalil Shikaki, in conjunction with the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace, indicates a sharp downward trend in support among the Palestinian public for all the parameters of the Clinton plan, especially regarding the compromise on Jerusalem (as compared to increased support among the Israeli public). The survey also indicates an increase in Palestinian support for violence, including suicide bombings.

Dichter's political horizon was the horizon of a qualified coordinator of whom nothing is expected besides operational victories. But a Shin Bet head does not meet his obligations through the assassination of Islamic Jihad leaders, the arrest of Hamas activists or the transformation of the territories into a large prison. A Shin Bet head who does not enlighten political figures (and, in serious situations, the public as well) as to the price exacted by portraying the PA as an enemy and destroying the security and civil infrastructures it has managed to build, has abused his position. A Shin Bet head who does not spur the government to assist the moderates in the territories - for instance, by freeing prisoners - bears responsibility for the strengthening of the extremists.

Dichter's invitation to join the elite of Sharon's party shows that not only has he abstained from warning of the ramifications of the "no-partner" policy, but he is reconciled to it. This is the place to recall that under Benjamin Netanyahu's government, the number of terror attacks dropped to the single digits. During that time, the prime minister maintained contact with the head of the PA, and the phrase "peace process" was not placed between quotation marks. At that time there was also a Shin Bet chief, Ami Ayalon, who constantly warned that whoever does not want Arafat will get Hamas instead.