'We are Seriously Concerned About the Fate of the State of Israel'

On Friday, November 14, 2003, Yediot Achronot, one of the leading tabloid newspapers in Israel, published an interview with four former heads of the Israeli General Security Services (GSS) conducted by Alex Fishman and Sima Kadmon. In that interview, the former Security Chiefs warn of an impending "catastrophe" for Israel and urge the public to rally behind a document created by Ami Ayalon and Sari Nusseibeh that sets out the principles of a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. The blunt language and statements of grave concern are particularly striking because the GSS is the non-political nerve center of Israeli intelligence, and is the agency responsible both for gathering intelligence and for preventing terrorist attacks - including by such controversial means as targeted killings and other preventive measures. While the interview has been widely quoted, rough translations have only appeared on isolated listservs and websites, and the full power of the meeting - called "historic" by its particiants - has often been diluted.

Presented here is a full translation of the Yediot article, written by Alex Fishman and Sima Kadmon, prepared by Israel-News Today and Zeek's editorial staff.

When the meeting is almost over, we ask Avraham Shalom (Bendor) if he thinks we are on the brink of an abyss. "We are on our way," he says, "because all the steps that we have taken are steps that are contrary to the aspiration for peace. If we do not turn away from this path, of adhering to the entire Land of Israel, and if we do not also begin to understand the other side, dammit, we will not get anywhere. We must, once and for all, admit that there is an other side, that it has feelings and that it is suffering, and that we are behaving disgracefully. Yes, there is no other word for it. Disgracefully."

"We totally debase the Palestinian individual. And nobody can take this. We too would not take it if it were done to us."

Avraham Shalom
"What do you mean disgracefully," we ask, "disgracefully at the roadblocks?"

"All of it," says Shalom, all of it.

"What is disgraceful, " we ask, "do we behave disgracefully in the refugee camps?"

"Everything, everything, " Shalom says. "It is all disgraceful. We totally debase the Palestinian individual. And nobody can take this. We too would not take it if it were done to us. And neither do they take it -- why should they suffer? And we are incapable of taking even a small step to correct this. Shimon Peres once tried to take this small step, he at least talked about it when I was GSS director, and then nothing was done."

"What did he talk about?"

"That the music should be changed," says Shalom. "The tone that makes the music. And Peres truly tried to change the overbearing and arrogant attitude of the Jews. And after all, this entire behavior is a result of the occupation. We have turned into a people of petty fighters using the wrong tools. And if we don't change this, there will be nothing here."

This was the blunt, direct manner of the former GSS director, Shalom, to explain the sense of urgency that led him, this week, to a unique meeting, the first of its kind, of four directors of the General Security Service to send a message, a warning, an alert, an alarm. To put a red alert sign in right in the face of Israeli society.

We are taking very sure and measured steps to a point where the State of Israel will not be a democracy or a home for the Jewish people.

Ami Ayalon
Together they have a total of 20 years in the GSS. The four -- Avraham Shalom, Yaakov Peri, Carmi Gillon and Ami Ayalon -- under different governments and in different periods, headed the organization that knows better than any other organization the innards of both societies, the Israeli and the Palestinian. From the sewage of the Khan Yunis refugee camp to the offices of the presidents of both societies.

Not only is the message harsh. The meeting itself wasn't simple. These are people who do not always live in peace among themselves. Carmi Gillon's willingness to join such a meeting with Yaakov Peri, after a long period of estrangement, proves how much the matter burns in their bones. What ultimately led them to put their old enmity aside, to overcome the natural embarrassment of being prophets of doom, and to give up the comfortable addiction they each have to their present occupation, was the deep sense that something very bad is going on here. And each of them summarized this sense in his own language and style.

Wallowing in the Mud

"In my opinion," Ayalon said, "we are taking very sure and measured steps to a point where the State of Israel will not be a democracy or a home for the Jewish people. Everything else is commentary."

"I completely agree with this phrasing," said Gillon. "That is also what brought me here. I am very concerned about our future. I look at my daughters, who are still young, and it is clear to me that we are heading for a crash. And we are the second generation that began the revival, and I would very much like the coming generations to live in a Jewish and democratic state the way my parents wanted."

"And I," said Yaakov Peri, "do not foresee any breakthroughs being made by deliberate decisions. I am one of those who believe in the phenomenon of cycles. And whether there are seven or 70 bad years, there are always seven or 70 good years. I think that a large part of the miracles that happened to the Jewish people did not take place because a government or someone decided on them and planned them, but because something unexpected and unforeseeable happened. And I believe that something of this sort will happen in the not-distant future, because otherwise, we really are bent on doom. But I can say that from whatever aspect you look at it, whether the economic, political, security, or social aspect, in each of these aspects we are going in the direction of decline, nearly a catastrophe. And that is why, if something doesn't happen here, we will continue to live by the sword, we will continue to wallow in the mud and we will continue to destroy ourselves."

"Look," said Gillon, "the reason that we are here, is because of Ami Ayalon's document. But with all modesty, although I am part of it, I think that this is the first time, perhaps the last, that it will be possible to take four GSS directors, to put them together for two hours and have them talk about -- I don't know, the most minor description I can find is: the serious concern for the condition of the State of Israel. This is the statement of the event. I personally had a great many doubts about coming to this meeting. I deliberated until this afternoon."

"What were your doubts?" we asked.

"It doesn't matter," said Gillon in his cautious way. "I had doubts. It appears a bit too dramatic to me, and it is actually dramatic. Because if four GSS directors get together who know the situation, and who live among their people and not only the GSS, but are also involved in other social spheres - and they convene and want to convey a message, it is important that this be the main message, and not whether Arafat is relevant or irrelevant."

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