I might be going crazy. I’m hearing voices. I’m not sure when they began, but I
first became aware of them around the time that the Oslo Accords were being
signed, so I can be forgiven, perhaps, for fearing the worst.
and go. Lately, they’re not going as much as they used to. The voices are not in
my head, fortunately. But they are there every time I turn on the radio talk
shows, or watch the news and current affairs programs, and they have a
significant presence in the printed press.
The noise is more annoying
than anything else, but it makes it hard to concentrate.
These are not
just ordinary voices, either. They are recognizable. One sounds like Opposition
leader Tzipi Livni, another like former Meretz leader and Oslo architect Yossi
Beilin; one like former Center party head and former chief of staff Amnon
Lipkin- Shahak and another like Yuval Rabin, son of assassinated prime minister
Yitzhak Rabin. Former chiefs of the Shin Bet (Israel’s Security Agency) Yaakov
Peri and Ami Ayalon also have their say.
And now there is a new name and
voice: former Mossad head Meir Dagan.
Dagan spent eight years silently
serving the country in one of the most sensitive positions. He’s now making up
Dagan’s recent volley of comments relates to everything from the
plight of Gilad Schalit to the Ofer brothers’ standing in the wake of the US
sanctions on their shipping company for allegedly maintaining trade ties with
Tehran; from warning that a military strike on Iran would be a “stupid idea” to
scolding that Israel should not have ignored the Saudi peace
This sudden need to speak out has naturally raised a great
deal of public debate. It says a lot about the state of the country – none of it
flattering – that more than the contents of his comments, the media, politicians
and general public were concerned with his motives.
Nobody is doubting
his contribution to state security during his term in office – he is widely
credited with having been involved in operations to slow down Iran’s race for
nuclear weapons; thwart Syria’s atomic plans; and eliminate arch terrorists in
ways that could provide Hollywood with inspiration. He has probably stayed awake
at night for many other operations that allowed ordinary Israelis to sleep
soundly, but the modest hero would say, “Don’t mention it” – and mean it in
So what made him suddenly speak out, again and again? Just
six months after leaving his post, did he wake up and feel that there was
something so fundamentally rotten with the decision-making process of the
country’s leaders that only he, Meir Dagan, could save us? Or did he look ahead
in his empty diary and decide that he needed to do something with the rest of
his life, and – in a route traveled by many before him – choose to pave the way
for a political career? Among the many questions raised by his sudden burst of
talkativeness is not only why he kept silent until now, but why he continued to
serve a political leadership he believed was leading the country to disaster.
And why he hadn’t informed the relevant forums, in the Knesset Foreign Affairs
and Defense Committee, for example, beforehand.
As Yediot Aharonot
Hendel noted, what Dagan revealed, above all, “was Retired General
In Israel, the fast track from the military and security
services to the dirty business of politics is almost the norm. Dagan has the
right to speak out – even the duty, if he believes the situation is so dire –
but there is a time and a place, and an appropriate manner.
Dagan is not
the first. The Star is Born phenomenon is causing many to shoot their mouths
off. Once upon a time, the heads of the security establishment were known only
by initials: Now we know their names, hobbies and political
For example, two months ago, among the signatures on a new
but highly familiar peace initiative were former Mossad chief Danny Yatom,
former Shin Bet chiefs Peri and Ayalon; Lipkin- Shahak; Amram Mitzna, a retired
general aiming for a second chance of leading what remains of the Labor Party;
and Rabin Jr., who seems to think he can offer a special insight into the huge
diplomatic and security dilemmas facing the country as a result of growing up in
his particular household.
Their platform, apparently drawn up according
to the formula of the Saudi-inspired 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, calls for the
1967 lines to be a basis for a two-state solution, with east Jerusalem as the
capital of the Palestinian state. It also advocates Israeli withdrawal from the
Golan Heights, although watching the events of the past few weeks, I’m relieved
that that clause hasn’t got off the ground.
Apart from threats to water
supplies and other strategic interests, I can’t help but feel that without the
Golan, the Palestinians attempting to storm into Israel from the Syrian border
would instead be rushing on Galilee every Nakba, Naksa and Na-nana- na-na
IT WOULD be a good idea for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to
take the initiative, it’s the surfeit of initiatives that worries me. There’s
the Arab Peace Initiative, the Saudi Initiative, George W. Bush’s 2002
Initiative; the Geneva Initiative; and those with long memories might even
recall Israel’s 1989 Peace Initiative under prime minister Yitzhak Shamir and
then-defense minister Rabin.
The French would like to start a new
initiative; Moscow has often fought (diplomatically) for the same. The Quartet
might sound like some kind of harmonious musical ensemble, but in this context
it is trying to orchestrate a peace effort on behalf of the US, the UN, the
European Union and Russia.
Even Turkey, when Ehud Olmert was on his way
out as prime minister at the end of 2008, desperately wanted to mediate an
agreement between Israel and Syria. Of course, since then it’s become clear
where the sympathies of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan really lie,
and the inability of Syria to treat even its own citizens civilly.
many initiatives; so many voices.
We’ve heard them at Camp David, Sharm
e- Sheikh, Taba, and in talks that put Annapolis on the international
I have fond memories of Jerusalem Post staff – from advertising
agents to printers – gathering around a battered television in the reporters’
work area to raptly watch history in the making at the start of the 1991 Madrid
Peace Conference, co-hosted by the US and what was still the Soviet
Madrid resulted in bilateral and multilateral talks on issues such
as trade and natural resources. The Palestinians were part of the Jordanian
delegation, and most discussion of animosity focused on the evident rivalry
between foreign minister David Levy and then rapidly rising star
The Madrid process, however, was replaced in 1993 by the Oslo
Accords, which were signed after secret negotiations behind Rabin’s back. Even
Israel’s Left admits that those agreements literally blew up in our
Political rivalry is natural, and having a strong opposition is a
sign of a healthy democracy. But evidently that’s not the case here. There are
so many private initiatives being promoted as alternatives to anything the
democratically elected government might, finally, decide to adopt that it’s not
only foreign leaders who are confused.
Too many different voices can
drive you crazy.The writer is editor of The International Jerusalem