'We are Seriously Concerned About the Fate of the State of Israel',
Yediot Achronot's Interview with Four Israeli Former GSS Directors, p.5

Lost honor

Shalom later says that until we understand that we have come to the Arab world in the Middle East, rather than the Arabs having come to the Jewish world, until we really understand that -- nothing will happen here. Because our education is at least as flawed as the Palestinians, who say that there is no State of Israel, that we should be thrown into the sea. "Our attitude on the issue of Arab honor is catastrophic," he says. "I have no harsher words to use. But it is also due to the fact that we are also like that to one another, and if we have not succeeded in being nice between Jews, how can it be demanded that we be nice to the Arabs? And I mean that they should stop knocking around the Arab population. The fact that we do not allow them to leave through this door, but only through that door. And this one with his car, and that one without his car."

"And that is not the GSS's role," says Peri, "this policy." There is a prime minister, there is a defense minister. Imagine that Avi Dichter would come tomorrow and say that we should drop an atom bomb on Gaza. So because it is a recommendation of the most critical echelon, it would be done? There is a leadership in the State of Israel. Excuse me, there should be a leadership."

"Once thwarting terror was a surgical operation. Today it is an HMO."

Carmi Gillon
All right, we said, let's set aside the matter of the closures and bypass roads. The measure known as targeted killing was also not invented today, but it seems that it is being used differently today.

"Excuse me," says Ayalon, "once it was an operative consideration. It did not become a political strategy. Today it is not the GSS that carries out targeted killings. It is the State of Israel that does so today as a policy."

"And I say," added Shalom, "that it has become an excuse. And this is something that cannot be explained to someone who does not understand about thwarting terror. Because terror is not thwarted with bombs or helicopters, but rather quietly. And the less we talk about it, the better. Believe me, if we were quieter, there would be fewer terror attacks."

"Once thwarting terror was a surgical operation," says Gillon. "Today it is an HMO. The business has become cheapened."

"And why does this increase terror?" says Shalom, "Because it is overt, because it carries an element of vindictiveness."

"Thwarting terror in and of itself," says Ayalon, "cannot be government policy. It must be GSS policy. Then thwarting terror will also be more effective, and the level of security will be higher, if alongside the thwarting of terror there is a political process, a political vision and faith. And I am talking about the Palestinian side at the moment. For at the end of the day, they will reach a Palestinian state."

Take Advantage of the Wind

The gloomy feeling that pervaded this meeting cannot be overstated. It appeared that the four GSS directors had decided to speak because of the belief that what they say could lead to a turning point. Or perhaps they thought that the very act of holding this dramatic meeting would also be its strength. That it could shake up old conceptions and rock the apathetic and despaired public. Peri was the first to discern the mood of despondency that was liable to hover over their remarks.

"There are four GSS directors sitting here," he said, "and this is liable to be perceived as if we were writing a requiem for the country. And it is not so. We came after long and exhausting political service, as volunteers and contributors, because we are worried and because we are pained. Unlike Avrum, I don't think that I can call what is happening in the territories 'disgraceful.' I think that many things must be corrected. I think our massive and non-specific behavior, what was previously called 'an HMO instead of surgery,' is where the affliction lies. This totality. And you cannot convey to a soldier at a roadblock or to a woman soldier checking women at a roadblock, the precise spirit of the commander. Sometimes the fear, the lack of experience, the lack of intelligence or just a lousy commander, are what dictate events. To this day I don't understand why a tank driving through the streets of Ramallah has to also crush the cars parked on the side of the road."

"And it appears to me," says Peri, "that a call must come out from this room, that says that when they are sincere initiatives that try to find a solution to the situation, they must be addressed, by the public as well. And I call on the leadership to address this in an open and businesslike fashion."

"And I," says Ayalon, "want to relate to the most terrible thing that has happened to us. And I am not referring to everything that has been said here, which I do not belittle and which I think is terrible. I think that much of what we are doing today in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is immoral, some of it patently immoral. And I think that over time, they pose a very big question mark on where we will be in another twenty to thirty years. But I think that what has happened to us -- and this is even worse than the fact that we've moved from surgery to the HMO waiting room -- is the loss of hope. And I'm speaking of both sides. Almost everything that we do to them and that they do to us, were we able to put it into a context of time and to say that this is just a stage on the way to something better, would be tolerable. The problem is that today, neither us nor they see any better future, and this is the consequence of what we are doing today. And that is the most terrible thing. And for this reason, in my opinion, it is imperative to begin to create hope. Because if the captain doesn't decide where he wants to go, there is no wind in the world that can take him."

"Yes guys," says, Ayalon, "that is correct. The sea is always stormy. And you can't take advantage of the wind if you don't know where you want it to take you. "

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The Participants:

Avraham Shalom (Bendor) was GSS director from December 1980 to September 1986. At his request, he ended his term in September 1986 in wake of the commission of inquiry that investigated the No. 300 bus affair. Avraham Shalom is one of the group of top GSS officials granted clemency by the president. When he ended his term, he became an independent businessman, mainly overseas. Among other things, he has served as a consultant to international companies.

Yaakov Peri served as GSS director from April 1, 1988 to March 1, 1995. He was GSS director during the first Intifada. Today he is chairman of Hamizrahi Bank and chairman of the Lipman Company. In the past he was president of Cellcom and the prime minister's adviser on POWs and MIAs.

Carmi Gillon served as GSS director from March 1, 1995 until February 18, 1996. He asked to end his service after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. He was recently elected chairman of the Mevasseret Tziyon Local Council. Prior to that he was Israeli ambassador to Denmark.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Ami Ayalon was the first GSS director to come from outside the GSS. He served as GSS director from February 18, 1996 until May 14, 2000. In the past he was the commander of the Navy. Today he is chairman of the Netafim irrigation systems company and heads the "National Consensus: Signing an End to the Conflict" initiative together with Prof. Sari Nusseibeh.

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December 2003

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

An interview with four former Israeli Intelligence Directors

Are the Ten
Carved in Stone?

Joel Shurkin

Run Like the Wind
Dan Friedman &
Jay Michaelson

Temima Fruchter

Fleeing Edges
Noam Mor

Josh Goes to Services
Josh Ring

Our 400 Back Pages

David Stromberg

Zeek in Print
Fall 03 issue now on sale

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From previous issues:

The Nature of Authority
Dan Friedman

Radical Evil
Michael Shurkin

I hear America Bling-blinging
Jay Michaelson