A strategic asset

Ze'ev Schiff was not only one of the foremost military correspondents in Israel, but also a strategic thinker of the first order.

schiff 88 (photo credit: )
schiff 88
(photo credit: )
Ze'ev Schiff will not only be remembered as the foremost military correspondent in Israel in recent years, but as a strategic thinker of the first order. He was a man with great dignity and integrity who sought to unravel and understand. He was a man of counsel with a sharp eye and a sharper mind. His singular capacity to sense what he did not see and understand a world of shadows and innuendo, set him apart. I came to k now Ze'ev over the past 10 years, having participated in many regional security meetings that took place after the Madrid Conference in 1991. Naturally, I had been an avid reader of his prolific writings on the national security issues of the day, prior to meeting him. All of his writings will remain a testament to his scholarship and expertise. Ze'ev took part in countless discreet and off-the-record meetings whose contents never saw the light of day, but clearly illuminated people's perceptions of Israel's many dilemmas. He always elevated the meetings in which he participated and provided fresh insight and different perspectives. Participating in one such meeting last autumn, I shall never forget how a Kuwaiti researcher was so proud to show me an article written by Ze'ev in the mid-nineties in which the Kuwaiti had been mentioned. This was for him a badge of honor and respect, that he displayed with pride and reflected Ze'ev's stature even among those who view Israel from afar. I was frequently taken aback in realizing just how much Ze'ev was read throughout the region, in western capitals and particularly Washington, as a reliable beacon of Israel's strategic thinking. He always kept his eye firmly on the substance and had a deep understanding, not only of the dynamics of Israel's national security but of the people responsible for it. His intimate perspective of the issues and the players sometimes enabled him to understand the system better than it understood itself. He was always in command of all the nuances and broader implications of the intricate issues at hand. He punctuated his understanding with modesty and never with arrogance. A personal conversation with Ze'ev was always a warm meeting with a friendly soul who seemed to provide so much rationality, calm and perspective to the tumult of the hour. After such a conversation, usually over lunch in northern Tel Aviv, I always felt enriched, inspired and refreshed. Above all, I have no doubt that a great many people in Israel and throughout the region and beyond, felt they lost a kind and gentle friend last week. He had been a strategic asset and he will be profoundly missed. The writer is deputy chief of mission of the Embassy of Israel in Washington DC. He was formerly deputy director general for strategic affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.