Another Tack: The only thing worse (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By SARAH HONIG 05/04/12)
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We can only speculate about whether Meir Dagan, ex-chief of Mossad
(counterpart to America’s CIA), and Yuval Diskin, exchief of Shin Bet
(counterpart to America’s FBI), are at all conversant with Oscar
Wilde’s wit. Unfortunately, we’ve no way to evaluate their erudition.
But on the off chance that they’re better- read than the average
honcho, we might ponder whether they subscribe to Wilde’s insight
that “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being
Wilde’s dictum might go a long way to accounting for Dagan’s and
Diskin’s otherwise inscrutable gabbiness, which might be no more than
the product of an apparently uncontrollable urge to generate
headlines. This may be in keeping with a local penchant alluded to by
the colloquial Hebrew catchphrase for volubility: larutz lesaper
lakhevreh. It roughly translates to “run and tell your friends.”
But that may be no more than an intricate ruse they want us to fall
for. Their hypothetical nothing-is-what-it-seems hoax could be in
keeping with the Hebrew semi-slang idiom hafuch al hafuch –
literally “opposite on opposite”– i.e. not what you expect, the
opposite of what you assume, creating an impression that’s the
opposite of what immediately looks likely.
Both the above pearls of our insular culture may contain some
relevance to putting Dagan’s and Diskin’s spasms of loquaciousness
into some semblance of context.
It may well be that both our former top guns are giving vent to run-
of-the-mill run-and-tell inclinations so pervasive in our minuscule
milieu. Most our ex-generals and other security services higher-ups
find it hard to find themselves out of the loop.
Our undersized arena bursts with an overabundance of posturing
Napoleonic knock-offs – cocky military types and prolific know-it-
alls – who presume to exclusively possess what it takes to dictate
Hubris, testosterone, bigheadedness, braggadocio and whatnot impel
them to make noise hot on the heels of their formal retirement.
Paraphrasing Descartes, their motto appears to be “I babble,
therefore I am.”
But the “opposite-on-opposite” scenario is far more appealing.
Indeed, it’s downright comforting to believe that Diskin and Dagan
are sophisticated performers in a carefully scripted plotline aimed
at swaying the whole world to accept the authenticity of the very
facade against which they ostensibly squeal at the top of their
lungs. In other words, rather than hawk sour grapes, they’re in
actual fact altruistic actors.
It would be reassuring to trust that these two aren’t cast in the
mold of assorted self-important omniscients who proliferate in our
puny provincial pond, where they’re prone to shoot off their mouths
in the informal contest for which proverbial rooster crows loudest.
It’s nice to imagine that the proclivity to prattle is part of a
grand cunning scheme, a clever disinformation ploy to obfuscate,
leave the enemy wondering, guessing and unsure, to throw the whole
watching world into a tizzy, to convince all and sundry that we’re
led by a trigger-happy lot.
The convoluted subtext is that, if not somehow placated, we might
nuke the neighborhood. This image could be essential to induce fellow
democracies to comprehend that something effective had better be done
about Iran because we’re losing patience with the international
community’s dalliance. The West’s inaction is liable to force us to
step into the breach ourselves.
Dagan and Diskin, obviously no novices in sly stratagems, would be
the wiliest choice to persuade the world to get on Iran’s case
because otherwise the field would be left to Binyamin Netanyahu and
Ehud Barak, whom both exchiefs assiduously build up as a demented and
In crafty collusion, the two Ds hype the scary factor of Bibi and
Barak (the two Bs).
The supposed subterfuge might not be outlandishly implausible, on
condition we accept the premise that real life can be as elaborately
tricky as espionage yarns. Why else, we may be tempted to ask, would
the Ds choose this especially sensitive juncture for their frenzied
By the scales of conspiracy theory devotees this cannot be accidental
timing. The Ds, moreover, were until recently the guardians of our
deepest national secrets. It’s more than a little unexpected for
them, of all ex-hotshots, to blab in order to carp.
Otherwise, how are they better than Anat Kamm? For those who forgot,
she’s serving time for having duplicated 2,200 documents, while she
worked in the OC Central Command’s office as a young conscript,
hiding her haul, hanging on to it long after her discharge and
finally entrusting it all to Haaretz reporter Uri Blau who absconded
True, the Ds didn’t have to fiddle with computer files. But spilling
the beans is spilling the beans, the modus operandi notwithstanding.
Even staffers in private business firms must sign undertakings not to
tattle about confidential company data after their employment has
However, like Kamm, the Ds glory in the pose of courageous whistle-
blowers desperately defending the public’s right to know. Here too
pseudo-moral narcissism is lauded by this country’s domineering left-
leaning media as the epitome of politically correct bon ton.
Not only did the Ds, like Kamm, thumb their noses at their elementary
obligations, but their cheerleaders now tell us that, like her, they
did so out of conviction that they know best what’s best for us.
Yet do they know better? Did they discover Gilad Schalit’s
whereabouts for five years right under their noses? Did they foresee
a smidgen of the upheaval misnamed as the Arab Spring? Their list of
failures or not-quite-successes is too long to inspire uncritical
We could kiss our national interests goodbye if each member of our
defense hierarchy – regardless of status – were to decide that he/she
is empowered to determine national policies and/or subvert endeavors
not to his/her liking. That may be precisely what assorted varieties
of leftist anarchists fervently desire. Their goal is to destabilize,
even abolish, all authority. To that end, the Ds, like Kamm a couple
of years ago, are an absolute boon.
The spinmeisters embraced Kamm as a youthful idealist purportedly
entitled to impose upon Israel’s democratic collective what she
deemed appropriate. These very spinmeisters now genuflect to the Ds’
They wouldn’t gripe without reason, we’re told. But why did the Ds
conceal their mistrust of the Bs for so long? If they were certain
that we entrusted our government into inept hands, why didn’t they
alert us earlier? Why did they keep working with incompetents for so
long? Why did they seek extended tenures and why did they accept
Why didn’t they resign in protest in real time, which would have been
the honorable move to make?
To grumble from the sidelines is too much like what many of us do in
Friday evening gossip and fix-the-world sessions. The Ds shouldn’t be
automatically absolved of all ulterior motives. They provided no
proof, only innuendo. The fact that the insinuations in question came
from ex-big wheels hardly renders them infallible.
The Ds don’t know anything more than their erstwhile bosses. The Ds
had already briefed the Bs on whatever intelligence they gathered. If
the two twosomes are indeed at loggerheads, it can only be over
differing analyses of said information. Here the Ds’ opinion isn’t
necessarily superior. It’s an opinion.
This is where things get dicey. Do the Ds really imply that their
opinion deserves to override that of members of a democratically
elected government? If so, they’re in effect suggesting that
spymasters should by right and rank call the shots or at least
instruct the voters how to cast their ballots. How will the Ds react
if Netanyahu is reelected?
The Ds’ conceit, to resort to understatement, smells bad. The
tendentious commentators and talking heads who avidly boost the Ds
need to think about the ramifications of backing security chiefs over
Beyond this issue of elementary civic hygiene looms the Iranian
danger. If the tantalizing “opposite on opposite” twist of spy
fiction hasn’t bizarrely manifested in this particular tawdry
episode, then Dagan and Diskin are actually pushing us into a
military conflict with Iran – the very conflict against which they
One of Netanyahu’s and Barak’s most incontrovertible achievements is
denting the indifference abroad to Iran’s machinations. To no small
measure this was achieved by the threat of an Israeli preemptive
strike. Winning the ear of the US and the EU is utterly indispensable
at this point.
Only concerted international action can replace an Israeli attack.
The international community will do nothing if it doubts our
assessments regarding Tehran or our determination to foil the
The Ds’ irresponsible nattering weakens Israel’s cause overseas and
thereby undermines the likelihood that Iran’s nuclear project can be
defused without use of force. The Ds’ superfluous chatter jeopardizes
the international coalition against Iran, demoralizes Israelis and
emboldens Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Do acclaimed experts like the Ds fail to understand this? Or has
frustrated ambition and cynicism blinded their judgment?
If so, it’s time for us all to pay heed to two more of Wilde’s
peerless aphorisms: “Ambition is the last refuge of failure” and “a
cynic is one who knows the price of everything and the value of
nothing.” (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 05/04/12)
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