They Know Everything

The heads of the Mossad, Shin Bet and Military Intelligence know the answers to questions such as if there will be war? Will Iran get the bomb? Will there be an intifada?

Three people have a monopoly on knowledge: the heads of the Mossad, Shin Bet and Military Intelligence. They hold in their hands the only relevant knowledge that interests the government and the people: how much security we have now and how much we will have in the future. The word security has one interpretation: Will there be war? Will Iran get the bomb? Will there be an intifada?

These three oracles always know the answers. That's why they get paid and never disappoint. Has anyone ever heard the head of the Shin Bet say he doesn't know if there will be an intifada? Or that he has no idea how Operation Cast Lead has affected Hamas? Has the head of Military Intelligence ever admitted that he does not have enough information to even guess how the Palestinians will behave if Fatah's Marwan Barghouti is released from prison? Did the Mossad chief ever shrug when asked to give his view on the demonstrations in Iran? They know everything, and this, of course, has a calming effect.

But what, for example, should we think about the Mossad head when six months ago he said the demonstrations in Iran would die out in a few days and that the election fraud wasn't any worse than in other democracies? What should we learn from the head of Military Intelligence, who told Haaretz in May 2008 that if an agreement were signed between Israel and the Palestinians "the condition of the Palestinian Authority and its security organizations would make it hard for it to get the terrorists under control and result in its inability to implement the agreement in the foreseeable future."

And what about the head of the Shin Bet? It's an organization capable of finding a wanted man's address and locating assassins at praiseworthy speeds, but it falls on its face when it is asked to provide a more extensive assessment. That group, like Military Intelligence, couldn't predict that Hamas would take over the Gaza Strip, and didn't think that an intifada was likely in 2000 or 1987. It also is unable to say what is going on now. But they talk, and they are listened to like true prophets.

Last week we heard another prophecy for the season. Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin was asked by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to comment on whether there would be a third intifada. His response is fascinating because it was so convoluted. On the one hand, a third intifada is unlikely, on the other hand it will take place only in response to serious events, Diskin explained. What events are we talking about? An attack on a mosque, the appointment of Marwan Barghouti as PA head, or a peace process without any future?

Does Diskin know for sure that another mosque will not fall victim to arson tomorrow? Is it possible that Barghouti will not be released in a deal for captive soldier Gilad Shalit? And if he is released, couldn't someone else stir an intifada? Can no other factor have any effect? And what about the future of the peace process? Is the situation such that there will be time to prevent an intifada? Are these accumulating circumstances; in other words, mosque, Barghouti and a stall in the peace process, or is just one of them enough to start an intifada; for example, that there will be no hope for progress in the peace process?

There can only be one result: Diskin's assessment that the chances for an outbreak of a new intifada are low cannot be relied upon. It seems the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee would have been better off if it had invited to the discussion Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas or Barghouti. Compared to Diskin, they do not need to guess what will happen. They are the ones who will be responsible for what happens.

But Diskin has apparently learned to be a politician, or at least to know when to lay the blame on the right shoulders in the future. Release Barghouti and the "future of the peace process" is not his responsibility. He will be responsible only if a mosque is torched.

The most fascinating part of it all was the nature of the questions Diskin was asked. No one was interested in knowing what peace with the Palestinians would look like, or how Hamas would behave if only Abbas signed the agreement. They did not want to know details about the future of the peace process. After all, they understand those subjects well.

Terrorist threats? Intifada? Here their wisdom fails them and they need an expert. And the expert, a wise man, does not tell them what to do, or how to use their authority, to prevent such an obvious threat. He is a classic oracle, whose answers are ambiguous enough so that every confused listener will find answers to his heart's desire and properly cover his rear.