There Is No Peace Department

It seems that being cloistered within separate conceptual boxes − one of which is labeled 'military' and the other 'diplomatic' has created the same fortified wall that separates the two lobes that should determine Israel's policies.

Amos Gilad knows everything. Last week, the head of the political-security division in the Defense Ministry explained in detail how it is possible, for example, to know whether Syria is heading toward war. You can see preparations and changes in the deployment of its army, because you cannot just go to war on the spur of the moment, Gilad explained. In the case of Syria, we do not see any such changes and, therefore, all the publications about war preparations are "the words of journalists." That is, nonsense and vanity. Right now, Gilad says when moving on to explain the true threat, Iran and Syria are mainly engaged in rehabilitating Hezbollah and thus have no time for war. And what about the contradiction in the views of Military Intelligence and the Mossad regarding Syria's intentions? Neither of them knows exactly what Assad's intentions are, Gilad declares. In fact, Gilad also does not know. What does he know? That Assad is not mature enough, that he is young, that he lacks ability and determination, and, in short, that Assad is no more or less than a Syrian model of an average Israeli leader, except for his age.

So who are the people who really know something, and who is busy covering his derriere even in 2007? Indeed, the head of Military Intelligence said Syria has lowered its level of preparedness and that "Assad is turning toward peace," but at the same time, several hundred Al-Qaida personnel have arrived in Lebanon. Are they more or less dangerous than Hezbollah? And where did they come from? Did they come via the same Syria whose leader is turning toward peace? And what about Iran - has it already reached the point of no return or does it have another three years? And has someone heard an official response on the matter of Israel planning to attack Iran?

Beyond bluff and spin, lack of knowledge and a paucity of information, it is possible to acknowledge the one single, consistent thing emerging from these remarks: There is no forecast for peace. Or more precisely, any scenario that includes the expressions "peace," "negotiations" or "agreement" dissipates into the militant discourse that ostensibly knows very well which missile of what diameter is now aimed at Tel Aviv. And, in truth, why should someone in Military Intelligence or the Mossad, in the political-security division or in the research department, engage in something that is not a threat? In prevention, which is not military but diplomatic?

It seems that being cloistered within separate conceptual boxes - one of which is labeled "military" and the other "diplomatic" - has created the same fortified wall that separates the two lobes that should determine Israel's policies. As if one is responsible for the dangers and threats, and the other for chances and opportunities.

If this were not the case, last week's verbiage might have sounded like this: "The Mossad's assessment is that negotiations with Syria are likely to prevent an atmosphere of war"; Khaled Meshal's statement about Israel being a "fact" signals the beginning of recognition of Israel, the Shin Bet believes; unilateral Israeli involvement in the internal Palestinian struggle would increase the chance of deterioration, according to a senior officer in military intelligence; the release of prisoners and a real easing of passage at checkpoints is liable to prevent the spread of fighting in Gaza to the West Bank and to reduce the violence; and, in particular: the head of Military Intelligence believes that Israel's failure to make a diplomatic initiative is liable to lead to war.

But woe to any official who would say such things. Without a commission of inquiry, he would find himself deposed from his high position by the end of the same day - because, after all, he exceeded his authority and "is engaging in politics." But what about someone who says there is no chance of negotiating with Syria? Is he not "engaging in politics?" And whoever loudly declares that only checkpoints or only arrests or only targeted killings will stop terror is not engaging in politics?

The same senior army and intelligence personnel can no longer hide behind vague statements that "there is no military solution to the conflict" and then pass the ball over to "diplomatic chattering." The time has come for them to actively point toward the chances as well, to turn their ears not only to the movement of a Syrian tank, but also to attach colored pins to the diplomatic movements that are occurring in the region.