June 7: Muzzling Dagan

The question is not whether Dagan has the right to speak out, but where and when that right should be exercised.

Muzzling Dagan
Sir, – Meir Dagan, the former Mossad chief, unquestionably has the right, if not the obligation, to have his voice heard concerning all matters relating to the vital interests of Israel. He has more than earned that right by his many years of devoted service and exemplary achievements in defense of Israel.
Nevertheless, I take issue with much of your June 6 editorial “Let Dagan Speak.” I do so because of what I feel to be misplaced and misleading emphases, in addition to a logic that is not always clear.
In a memorable decision, US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes stressed the obvious fact that the constitutional right of freedom of speech does not include the right to shout “fire!” in a crowded theater. The question is not whether Dagan has the right to speak out, but where and when that right should be exercised. Certainly, declarations concerning existential dangers dare not be made by leaked statements to journalists.
I am a long-time admirer of Dagan but I fear that his recent outspokenness has led only to public confusion and an unfortunate sense of disunity.
Sir, – “Let Dagan Speak” is erudite and well-reasoned, but leaves out two important elements.
Dagan is not just anybody – he’s an expert that both foreign countries and our own citizens pay special attention to. He does not have to back up his statements with facts because we all know he has facts we’re not privy to, nor can anyone in power debate him without risking revelations of yet more information that might harm Israel’s interests.
There is also the reality on the ground. Things change very fast in the political and the cloak-and-dagger worlds. Dagan no longer has access to those special meetings that sometimes change the course of history. His words, while well-intentioned, may be undermining long-range plans, programs or any of a dozen clandestine operations he may already not be aware of.
In a way, he’s become the bull in a china shop.
The point is that someone like Dagan can have a deleterious effect on his country after he’s left a sensitive position of power.
That’s why, to the best of my knowledge, previous heads of the Mossad have limited their statements and kept out of the media’s eye. Dagan should follow suit.
Indeed a time bomb
Sir, – Barry Rubin is one of my political gurus whose opinions I hold in the highest esteem. But in his June 6 column (“Rahm Emanuel? Really?,” The Region) he denies that a doubling, tripling or even quadrupling of the Palestinian population “would have no effect on Israel’s status as a democratic state,” to which I cannot agree.
If such a demographic event were to occur (and given time it probably will, with or without a Palestinian right of return), the Palestinians would be faced with a crisis of living space, food, infrastructure and all else it takes to support a burgeoning population. The subsequent misery would, as in all Palestinian problems, be blamed on Israel, for if they had the land and infrastructure on which Israel sits, it would solve all their problems. This situation would exert enormous pressure on Israel and would affect – even more than it does today – how the rest of the world looks upon the dispute.
The bottom line is that a doubling, tripling or quadrupling of the Palestinian population would threaten not only Israel’s existence as a democratic state, but its existence altogether. Proof is the realization by both sides that a right of return and its increase of the Palestinian population, even if initially confined to a Palestinian state, would literally be a dagger pointed at the hearts of both states.
Haifa Go for it!
Sir, – It was with great interest that I read Issa Edward Boursheh’s “A bridge to the Arab world” (Comment & Features, June 6) positing the establishment of an Arabic-language television station aiming to “further introduce the ‘real’ Israel, with its advantages and disadvantages....”
I would like to invite Boursheh, who is a graduate student at Tel Aviv University, to make this a reality. In the “start-up nation,” one needs only desire and vision, and good things will happen. I know this to be true, as Boursheh himself is an example of what our minorities can achieve. Education here is open to all who reach for it. Boursheh has done so.
Dreams are possible, Mr. Boursheh, if one only wills it. To paraphrase the catch phrase from a popular movie, “If you launch it, they will watch.” You, sir, have the talent and skills that are necessary.
You have the drive and the vision, and have enunciated it clearly in The Jerusalem Post.
So I say to Boursheh, go for it! Find backers for your idea, research the government channels available to you. After all, this is Israel and anything can happen.
Kfar Yona
A warning?
Sir, – I just read “Lightning strikes Peres’s plane in Italy” (News in Brief, June 6).
Methinks this was a warning to Shimon Peres from our Protectoron- High for the president to stop meddling in the country’s political affairs. Peres’s current role is supposed to be apolitical, and it is about time he internalizes this.
This time it was just a wagging finger.
Petah Tikva
Mean feat
Sir, – Those sea creatures are certainly impressive (“Octopus can control one arm at a time,” Health & Science, June 5). But that’s nothing. After reading “Abbas welcomes French peace initiative, but doesn’t commit to Paris parley” (June 5) and “‘Fatah never recognized Israel’” (June 2), it’s clear that Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the Palestinian Authority and the Fatah terror organization, is able to talk simultaneously out of both sides of his mouth.
Problem Solving 101
Sir, – Despite all the current opinions being expressed regarding the effect and supposed shortcomings of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech before US Congress, it seems to me that two important aspects have been overlooked.
1. If US President Barack Obama is sincere in his repeated expressions of full support for the safety of Israel, why do we not ask for a treaty setting forth the US obligation to physically join in the defense of Israel in any future attack? Such a treaty would not reflect merely the feelings of a sitting president, but a permanent commitment.
2. The main responsibility for the widespread criticism of and lack of support for Israel in the world lies with the Foreign Ministry.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is certainly the “boss” of his office – surely he could use some of his toughness the make the necessary and much-needed changes. He could even hire outside PR experts and cover the cost by reducing the number of staffers who so far have been laboring in vain.
Sir, – Israel needs a constant PR campaign aimed at its Arab neighbors. Every day, it should propose ways of working together – for water desalination, hydroponic farming, math and science curriculums, and business development. If they do not care to listen, at least the rest of the world will hear and give Israel credit for attempting to build relationships to benefit its sworn adversaries.
Even the Palestinian right of return should be considered – with proper and legitimate ownership documents. That would show Israel as being reasonable without permitting the wholesale return of Palestinians. There must be very few such documents in Palestinian households.
All I am suggesting is that Israel should speak softly to its adversaries, if only to win the sympathy of the rest of the world – which hears only a strong refusal to reach out. What would it cost in the long run?
New York