Archive: The Ya'alon-Dichter divide

Two commanders who have recently retired, chief of General Staff Moshe Ya'alon and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Avi Dichter, succeeded -

Two commanders who have recently retired, chief of General Staff Moshe Ya'alon and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Avi Dichter, succeeded - thanks to their close cooperation - in defeating the terrorist offensive of Palestinian suicide bombers. No democracy in the world has had to face this kind of war, when almost every day for four years Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades attempted to send suicide bombers to attack buses, coffee shops, shopping malls and streets in Israel. The current lull was not imposed on the Palestinian terrorist organizations by the impotent Palestinian Authority, or even by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Gaza disengagement plan. The lull is actually due to the success of the Shin Bet and the IDF, together with the Israel Air Force (during Dan Halutz's time as commander) in systematically killing the terrorists and their leaders, such as Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the heads of Hamas. Consequently the Israeli public owes a debt to Ya'alon, who commanded the IDF for three years, and to Dichter, who directed the Shin Bet for five years. They succeeded in breaking down the rigid organizational frameworks existing between the two bodies, to facilitate the free and rapid flow of intelligence information that thwarted attempted attacks by bombers. It is therefore not surprising that American and European intelligence services are now coming here to study how we are battling Islamist fascism. Dichter repeatedly claimed, in the numerous interviews he gave last week, that the security fence has led to the dramatic decrease in the number of penetrations by suicide bombers. He implies that if the government had constructed the fence earlier, this would have saved many more lives. NATURALLY SUCH arguments provide ammunition for attacks on the government by its detractors, who aspire to its downfall. In contrast, Ya'alon told me a different story: He attributes the success in the campaign against the bombers more to military operations than to the construction of the fence. Ya'alon explained to me, in a conversation in Jerusalem two weeks ago, that the Israeli capability of reaching the terrorists' homes and hiding places, and of arresting or killing them before they perpetrate attacks, changed the face of the war and gave the Jews the upper hand. This isn't the sole bone of contention between Ya'alon and Dichter when analyzing the situation. Although Ya'alon emphasized that he was optimistic in the long run, he warned that after disengagement Palestinian shelling can be expected not only of Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip but also of cities in the center of the country, from Palestinian bases in Judea and Samaria, if Israel doesn't continue to make concessions to the Palestinians in the West Bank also. In contrast, Dichter is trying to sound more optimistic even now, claiming that there is 'no intelligence information' supporting Ya'alon's analysis of the situation. However, in the same breath Dichter adds that even if the four settlements in Samaria are uprooted, the IDF will have to continue to control the area. Perhaps Ya'alon and Dichter mean the same thing? In other words, Dichter is promising quiet for the towns in the center of the country, on condition that the IDF, led by Dan Halutz, continues to control the area. And perhaps Ya'alon is afraid that subsequent governments will give up control of Judea and Samaria, leading to a rain of Kassams on Ra'anana and Kfar Saba. In my opinion, the explanation is far simpler: Dichter, despite his half-hearted denials, intends to enter political life. Ya'alon is still far from such an ambition. It is very strange that Dichter is claiming that 'there is no intelligence' supporting Ya'alon's grave warnings. What does he expect - recordings of phone calls or written operational orders of the Palestinian terrorist organizations indicating that they are planning to continue the war after Israel leaves Gaza? After all, the writing is on the wall. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Authority are continuing the massive smuggling of arms to the Gaza Strip via the tunnels in Rafah. The Palestinians are transferring their military industry for the production of Kassams and mortars to Judea and Samaria. Why should they do so, if not to continue the war against Israel? What is Dichter thinking? Consequently the scorn voiced by some Israeli pundits about Ya'alon's warnings will come back to haunt them. With all due respect to Dichter, he has apparently failed to absorb the most important lesson from the failures of the Shin Bet chiefs who preceded him: Former Shin Bet directors, Ya'acov Perry, Carmi Gillon and Ami Ayalon, all fell asleep on guard duty because Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin and Ehud Barak believed the lies of Oslo, and of Yasser Arafat himself. They had intelligence information that Arafat was intending to continue the struggle against Israel, and not to seek peace. They threw this intelligence into the garbage can. Hundreds of Jews paid with their lives. Now we need to pay attention to the writing on the wall.