Global Policy Forum

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


By Alex Fishman and Sima Kadmon

Yedioth Ahronoth
November 14, 2003
(Note: This English-language text was taken from Peace Now)

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 another 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. "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 debase the Palestinian man individual to all and sundry. 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.

Q: What did he talk about?

A: 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. 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. Only 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 if Arafat is relevant or irrelevant.

Look What They Did to Us

Ami Ayalon is short-tempered, tense, almost emotional. He came to the meeting with the avowed goal of promoting the document of principles he authored with Sari Nusseibeh. He hopes that the support of three other former GSS directors will have a dramatic effect. One of his achievements from this meeting was the willingness of his colleagues to sign his document. Ayalon's pleasure over this was touching. True, the signature campaign among the Israeli and Palestinian publics goes on, but the number of signatories is still far from constituting public pressure on the political establishment.

"You know what the paradox is?" He asks. "I go places all day. I meet with thousands of people. In the Katamon neighborhood, in Sderot, in Kiryat Shmona, everywhere in the country. There is no argument over our document. The argument is not over the paper. The argument is over our rights and obligations as citizens. Can we have an effect, is it right for us to have an effect, if our call, our cry, our signature, will do anything. The argument is over what is democracy in Israeli society at the beginning of the 21st century."

And what you see, says Peri, is apathy, repression, a lack of desire to think deeply. Look what has been going on over the last three years: there are no demonstrations, no rallies, almost no protest. Those who do bother to come out strongly against the government of Israel or against the leadership, put an ad in the newspaper at their own expense. There is almost nothing organized. Look what they've managed to do to us.

And I think, says Peri, that this interview, this historic meeting, can achieve its goal if we use it to appeal to the Israeli public. There is a natural resistance on the part of an incumbent administration to any initiative that it does not make itself. But I think that a government with any self-respect, a leadership with any self-respect, must at last hold a debate on such an initiative. Afterwards it can throw the document away, reject it, say it is unacceptable. But what we have here is complete disregard. This is true for both the Ayalon-Nusseibeh document as well as the Geneva document.

I think this is a mistake, because there is a desire on the part of the public, there is a new sense of openness. In my opinion, the Ayalon-Nusseibeh document balances, in a more than reasonable way, between what I call "the national aspirations and identity of Israel as a Jewish democratic state," and the national aspirations of the Palestinian people. Its drawback is that its implementation is dependent on an anarchist society, and who knows how many years it will take for it to recover. But to come and say that this document or its principles cannot be implemented because of the condition of Palestinian society—that would be a mistake.

As of today, says Carmi Gillon, the only political agenda formally on the table is the road map. The problem is that all of the plans in the last ten years were plans of stages. The stages were created in order to build trust between the sides. And in these ten years this failed, it didn't work. And that is why I think that the change that Ayalon and Nusseibeh bring, as does Yossi Beilin, is that they are coming and saying: okay, this way failed. We tried it for ten years, and no trust was built. Now, instead of building trust, let us build agreements. This is a different way of tackling the conflict. Instead of trying to build trust and then agreements, we make the agreements now, and then roll the carpet back and begin to deal with the stages until reached an agreement.

"As of today" says Gillon, "we are preoccupied with preventing terror. Why? Because this is the condition for making political progress. And this is a mistake." "You are wrong if you think that this is a mistake" says Shalom "it is not a mistake. It is an excuse. An excuse for doing nothing." We remind Shalom that Sharon accepted the road map. "Yes" Gillon answers in Shalom's place, "but he made a condition to the road map, that turned the issue of terror into the be all and end all. You can't see the road map from behind the terror."

"The only person in the Likud who was honest in this matter", says Shalom, "was Yitzhak Shamir. He said: I'll draw the matter out for ten years, and then another ten years." One thing is clear, says Gillon, and that is without an agreement we are down for the count. And only one thing interests me: how to have a Jewish democratic state here in the Land of Israel. And after years in which I believed that we had to move stage by stage, and after we paid the entire territorial price with Egypt and Jordan, and from a strategic and security aspect this only benefited us, then I think that if we don't resolve the present situation and we continue our conflict with the Palestinians, this country will go from bad to worse.

"The question" says Ayalon, "is what do we want?. After all, for years, our leaders did not know what to do about the security zone in southern Lebanon. And in the end we left there for one reason—because the public said: Gentlemen, we are leaving Lebanon and stop driving us crazy." That is why, Ayalon says, I contend that in the coming years we will comprehend more and more the necessity—not the desire, but the necessity—of organizing and creating coalitions from the outside. "What do you mean?" we ask, "popular movements like the Four Mothers?" "This brew, which was concocted by the Four Mothers", says Ayalon, "is a magic potion. We don't exactly know how to recreate it. I know some of the founders of the movement and I don't know if they planned what they did in detail. If you ask, is the process of creating a public movement with a clear goal of what it wants to accomplish with the details being left for the political echelon the right thing to do, then yes. I think this is the correct process."

That's not what happened with the Four Mothers, says Gillon. I want to remind you that we left Beirut, we left Lebanon before we left the security zone. There was a political upheaval in Israel that advocated withdrawing from Lebanon, and then Rabin came up with the withdrawal plan.

This, precisely, was where the GSS had a lot of influence, says Shalom. We were the first to say that we must leave there back in 1982. We said that it was too big for us, but the army didn't want to hear about it. "But the possibility of civil war, we ask, does that not scare you?" "Very much", says Shalom. And Gillon says "But this is the idea and there is nothing else, except for conflict."

The Founder - and the Dismantler

Interestingly enough, the word "conflict" came up in the course of this meeting in only one context: the conflict with the settlers. We asked Ami Ayalon, since one of the sections of his plan refers to evacuating all the settlements, how he plans to do this. "Describe for us" we said, "how you evacuate Elon Moreh"

I want to preface by saying, Ayalon says, that here too I begin with the political echelon. After all, we erred in the public discourse and in the lexicon we created in the last ten or 30 years. Were we to go to the settlers and tell them: you have been the pioneers of the State of Israel for the last 30 years, it was because of you that we were able to reach a situation in which an agreement with the Arab world is possible, but you are also the ones who will pay the very painful price of the agreement. And that is why we, Israeli society, have to make sure you have houses, jobs that we bring you home. Were this to be the language of public discourse, we could, in my opinion, neutralize between 75- 85% of the settlements. I think that such a situation was almost created in a rare opportunity in the summer of 2000, when the level of anticipated resistance to removing settlements was extremely marginal, because ultimately, these pioneers realized that the public wanted something else. "Do you really believe" we asked him, "that the manner of public discourse will change the positions of a large group of fanatical extremists, which to this day dictates our national agenda?" "You don't understand. At issue are 15% or even 10% of the settlers" he says, "and we have to be capable of facing such a number".

We wondered how Ayalon thinks that it is possible to face 10-15% of the settlement residents, when we are unable to evacuate even one illegal outpost. After all, with every evacuation another settlement is immediately established. And Yaakov Peri says: I think that Ami is saying smart things, but their time has passed. I contend that that today 85-90% of the settlers, with a simple economic plan, would simply get up and go home. There is no problem with them. There are 10%, perhaps 12%, of the ideological core with whom we will have to clash. And I believe that Arik Sharon is perhaps the only person who can do this. As a founder of the settlements he can also be the one to dismantle them. The problem, says Peri, is that to this day no leader has ever gotten up in the State of Israel, pounded on the table and said, "we are going home, because that is what an agreement entails." Sharon has often talked about the fact that we will be required to make painful compromises, and there are no painful compromises except for evacuating settlements. I am sure that Sharon understands this and that it is difficult for him, ideologically, morally, socially, but the person who was able to bring about a deal such as the prisoner exchange deal and who could be that determined, can also get other things passed, such as evacuating settlements.

If Peri is the sober one, and Gillon the cautious and reserved one, and Ami Ayalon the dreamer—then Avraham Shalom, the man who resigned as director of the GSS in wake of the no. 300 bus affair, is the cynical version of the little boy from the tale The Emperor's New Clothes. I don't believe that these 10%, whom Peri mentions, are all that brave, he says. I definitely don't think so. Not long ago, at an internal meeting, after I heard that the "hilltop youth" were like Hamas, I talked to some of them. They told me that there are 100 activists and another 400 who follow them and 1,000 supporters. Let's say that these numbers are correct. So I said: if they were Arabs, would you know how to solve the problem? Yes, they told me. So I said: so let's resolve the problem as if they were Arabs. Take 15 of them, put them under administrative detention, and see how all the rest do nothing. And I said something else. I said: you say they are like Hamas? That they are willing to be killed? The answer was an explicit no. So I am more optimistic in this matter. When we leave them out there alone, they'll come. And how they'll come.

A silence settled on the room, and only Peri said: I would like, how should I put it, to soften this, without Avrum's permission. But Avrum Shalom says: I didn't say we should have a civil war. I, says Peri, think that perhaps we can expect a clash and it could be a painful clash, and if I could avoid it, of course I would. But I don't think there is any way to avoid it. There will always be some groups, or some individuals, for whom the Land of Israel nestles among the hills of Nablus and inside Hebron, and we will have to clash with them. If someone can show me a different way, says Peri, I am willing to accept it. But if there is ever, and I hope that in the foreseeable future, there will be peace with the Palestinians—then I don't see how the State of Israel can be responsible for the safety of its citizens living in Hebron. I don't know how to do it, and I don't think anyone else knows. And that is the real problem. And I'm not making light of the fact that Hebron is the city of the forefathers, but it must return to the Palestinians, and those who live there today will have to leave, sooner or later.

All of us here, says Ayalon, speak of something that is the consensus, that is not just confined to this room, but is common to all Israeli society: we want a country that is a democracy and a home for the Jewish people. And that is why I will state in clear words: in the life of every country or nation, there is more than one Altalena. The political leadership of the State of Israel has made difficult decisions in the past when it was clear what the alternative was, and a future political leadership will have to make difficult decisions when the alternative is clear.

A very narrow square

There is something surprising, unexpected, about hearing the GSS people, who are responsible one day for targeted killings and assassinations and closures and roadblocks, and the next day, when they are released, they present a worldview that is very far from this policy, one that it is easy to call left wing. Interestingly enough, they firmly reject their definition as leftists, and are almost offended by it. But Peri says "This sociological phenomenon should be studied one day. Why is it that everyone—GSS directors, chiefs of staff, former security personnel—after a long service in security organizations, become the advocates of reconciliation with the Palestinians. Why? Because they come from there, because they were there, we know the material, the people, the field, and surprisingly enough, both sides. And once you come from there, you know the scents and can characterize and diagnose them."

"Do you mean to say", we asked, that the present GSS Director Avi Dichter, "with his positions on tightening closures and increasing roadblocks, could be released tomorrow from the GSS and present positions that are identical to yours?" Certainly, they say, without a doubt. I worked with three prime ministers, says Shalom, and had a different effect on each of them, without wanting to. The same words that I said echoed on different walls: One green, one blue and one yellow. That's the way it is. And I have to admit: Each time I was hit by the ricocheting paint. But the effect was great. And you have to remember that as a GSS director, you have to be non-partisan. You have no political influence, and it should not interest you either. If you cannot serve under a certain government, resign. But if you can live with the guidelines of the war against terror, then you do it to the best of your ability, with all the means at your disposal. And the statements you make to the prime ministers constitute an influence, in the absence of anyone else to do it. The GSS has a critical effect, because it is the only one that is familiar with the material. There is no one else. That is why I don't buy the definitions that are directed at Dichter: What happened to him. Nothing happened to him. The State of Israel is what happened to him, that is what happened to him.

"Excuse us" we said, "but there is still a debate here with the chief of staff, who argues that the blockades, the closures and the treatment of the Palestinian population create a problem of expanding the circles of terror." The strategy today, says Gillon, is how to prevent the next terror attack. Period. And it is Dichter's duty to come and say how best to prevent the next terror attack. So it is true that the chief of staff is justified in saying that it is better to think in broader terms, and to ask how to prevent the coming terror attacks and not just the next terror attack. But I think that the problem, as of today, is that the political agenda has become solely a security agenda.

A tactical-operative agenda, amends Shalom. Yes, says Gillon, and it only deals with the question of how to prevent the next terror attack, not the question how it is at all possible to pull ourselves out of the mess that we are in today. The existing gap is at the political echelon, says Ayalon, and it lies in the fact that there is no balance to operative thinking. We have built a strategy of immediate prevention. I want to give an example that may surprise you. When Bibi Netanyahu came back from Wye Plantation, the GSS's position was against withdrawing from the territory, because it appeared to us as a withdrawal with the intention of returning. It was not a real process, at least according to my understanding of the security cabinet and the Palestinian Authority at the time. And there were definitely situations when I, with my opinions as you know them, when I was in my position—thought that it was wrong to withdraw from the territory. And I have another example, said Gillon. The withdrawal from seven cities in the West Bank. The withdrawal was set with a predetermined timetable, and I, as GSS director at the time, thought that this was wrong, and that conditions should be posed and fulfilled in advance, and only then should we withdraw from the next city. Eventually, the political echelon, which was the late Yitzhak Rabin, sat down and made the decision.

The problem, says Peri, is not the differences of opinion between the army and the GSS, nor if someone changed his opinion. The problem is that when there is no political direction, senior position holders such as the chief of staff or GSS director may—and I am not saying that this is happening—lose their path, or become confused or vague. If the State of Israel, the government of Israel, the narrow kitchenette, the security cabinet, were to step forward and say: This is where the State of Israel intends to go over the coming years, this is where we want to go, it would be a different story. But when there is no political direction—a senior position holder is ultimately forced to stick to his very square framework, where he does not share the responsibility, since the GSS's role is to thwart terror, period. And it is the IDF's role to provide internal and external security to the State of Israel, period. And this square, in the reality that exists today, is very narrow. It is not strategic. It remains at a tactical level. And I have to tell you, that we should doff our hats to the security establishment, who succeed in doing what they do within this limited framework.

In this context, says Gillon, remember that in the days of the Rabin and Peres governments, there was a very clear policy: That we should fight terror as though there were no peace process, and continue the peace process as though there were no terror. That is precisely the direction that the GSS should be given. "When you talk about a political direction", we ask, "did Barak's government supply such a direction?" Barak's government, in my opinion, said Peri, did not signal in any political direction. Can anyone here tell me which direction Barak was going in, aside from the well known statement in the last hour of Camp David? Yes, guffawed Shalom, that there is no one to talk to. I think, said Peri, that all of the Israeli governments after Rabin, for the past seven years, did not signal and did not tell the Israeli public or the security forces, where they wanted to reach. And that is the reason that we have gathered here today, after extra-parliamentary initiatives have arisen as a result of personal acquaintance, as a result of familiarity with the material, and these initiatives enter into the vacuum created by political deficiency.

Mistaken attitude towards Abu Mazen

Ayalon: Yaakov Peri says that one of the great errors of the political leadership today is that fact that most of the debate revolves around the question whether we do or do not have a partner. And I think that this is indeed an error. In this terrible situation, where civilians are slaughtered in restaurants and buses, in my opinion there is no other way but to take unilateral steps. And I believe that if the State of Israel were to get up tomorrow morning—or three years ago, as far as I am concerned—and leave the Gaza Strip and Gush Katif, and really and truly begin to dismantle illegal settlements, then I tend to believe, based on long standing acquaintance with our future dialogue partners—that the Palestinians would come to the negotiating table. We asked Shalom if he agrees with Peri. "Yes" he says, "one hundred percent" Gillon and Ayalon also agree with him. Therefore, continues Peri, it is an error of the first order that most of the things we hear on the news and in the press consist of the question whether Arafat is relevant or irrelevant, or whether we should expel Arafat or not expel him, or whether we do or do not have a partner. And I accept that the State of Israel erred in its attitude towards Abu Mazen's cabinet on many topics.

Q: Was it also an error to destroy the PA's security services in the three years of combat?

Yes, says Peri. And I think that what we did with Jibril Rajoub was an error. es, says Shalom, grave damage. And the preoccupation with Arafat is primarily an anachronism, because we will not determine who is relevant and who isn't. I believe it was the mother of all errors with regard to Arafat. Just as it is not dictated to us that Bibi will be after Sharon or Sharon after Bibi, by the same token we cannot determine who will have the greatest influence over there. So let us look at the Palestinians' political map, and it is a fact that nothing can happen without Arafat.

"What you are saying" we said, "is that it doesn't bother you for Arafat to be a partne?" Nothing bothers me in politics, if I can gain from it. Arafat or no Arafat, one fine day he will be gone, and someone else will replace him. But in the meantime the Palestinians are living in steadily worsening conditions. I think that Arafat is a great obstacle, says Gillon. Over the past ten years we have tried all types of governments. We have had hawkish governments, and we have had dovish governments, and we have made compromises. On the Palestinian side, the same Arafat remained in place. And without handing out grades to the Israeli side, there is no doubt that Arafat deserves a failing grade. I don't believe in Arafat, but I believe in the document of principles. Because it is good for the Jews. It is good for a Jewish and democratic state. It is good for Israel, period. And I want us to determine our agenda, not Arafat. And when we say that Arafat is an obstacle to peace, it is precisely like placing terror before everything else. Why shouldn't we come and say: Wait a minute, this is what is best to preserve this state for our children. This is what assures us peace and security. The best thing now is to convince and create public opinion that will come and say: This is what we want. We want to withdraw from the territories. We are willing to compromise on Jerusalem, we are willing to do all of this because it is best for our security.

And I think, says Peri, that the State of Israel has made every possible error in the matter of Arafat, including the latest decision to expel him, thereby putting him on the stage after he had already sunk into the abyss. And they tried to sell it to us by implying that there is some kind of trick here, some kind of maneuver that we mortals do not understand what is behind it. And what was behind it was an unwise decision by the Israeli government. I think that Arafat is interfering, and therefore we have two paths: The extra-parliamentary path, for the sake of which we have gathered here, and the unilateral path. To stop talking about a partner already, and do what is good for us. And what is good for us is to be able to protect ourselves in the most effective manner. Not to have to waste too many troops in Gaza. To waste fewer troops on guarding hilltops and settlements and three goats and eight cowboys. And ultimately, we will build a fence. The route can be discussed, and that is already a different story. But we will build a fence. A fence is necessary, at least to demarcate our ability to defend ourselves. The red lines are in fact the borders of the historical State of Israel, says Gillon. We returned to the Green Line in the agreement with Egypt. In Jordan. In Lebanon. The tradeoff that the Rabin government and Netanyahu conducted was also on the Green Line. Therefore, it is clear to me that our borders in Judea and Samaria, and certainly in the Gaza Strip, run along the Green Line. The separation fence is becoming irrelevant. It is a fence that is not a fence, which follows borders that are not borders. The fence also troubles me, says Shalom. A fence succeeds on two conditions: That no one ever passes in either direction, and that the discipline of those who guard the fence is at the level of the Germans. And that will not happen. Today's fence is creating a political and security reality that will become a problem. Why? Because it creates hatred, it expropriates land, and annexes hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to the State of Israel. This is contrary to our interests, according to which we view the State of Israel as the home of the Jewish people.

The result, says Shalom, is that the fence achieves the exact opposite of what was intended. Instead of creating a reality of separation and maintaining a window of opportunity for "two states for two peoples," a situation has been created where this window of opportunity is gradually closing. The Palestinians are arguing: You wanted two states, and instead you are closing us up in a South African reality. Therefore, the more we support the fence, they lose their dream and hope for an independent Palestinian state.

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. 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 [Arab] 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, the public must address them, 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 20-30 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 they nor us 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.

*The Participants:

Avraham Shalom (Bendor). Shalom was GSS director between December 1980 and 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. He 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. He 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. He 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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FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.