Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Something strange happens to retired leaders of the internal security service of Israel, the Shin Bet. This service is by definition a central pillar of the Israeli occupation. He is admired by Israelis (Jews), he is afraid of the Palestinians, he is respected everywhere by security professionals. The occupation could not exist without him.
And here lies the paradox: from the moment the service chiefs leave office, they take a stand for peace. How to explain this?
In fact, there is a logical explanation. Shin Bet agents are the only elements of the system that have a real contact, direct, daily contact with the Palestinian reality. They question of Palestinian suspects, torture, trying to become an informant. They gather information, penetrate the most secret parts of Palestinian society. They know a lot more about the Palestinians than anyone else in Israel (and perhaps also in Palestine).
Those among them who are intelligent (intelligence agents may well be smart, and they often are) also reflect on what their knowledge. They come to conclusions that are beyond many politicians: they are in the presence of a Palestinian nation, this nation will not go away, the Palestinians want their own state, that the only solution to the conflict is a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
As we witness a strange phenomenon: after leaving the service, the heads of the Shin Bet, one after another, becoming lawyers declared the "two-state solution."
This is also what happens to the heads of the Mossad, the foreign intelligence service.
Their main task is to fight against the Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular. Yet from the moment they leave the service, they become advocates of the two-state solution, in direct contradiction to the policy of the Prime Minister and his government.
ALL MEMBERS of the two secret services, well - secrets. All except the leaders.
(That’s my conclusion. When I was a member of the Knesset, I introduced a bill stipulating that the name of Heads of made public. The bill was of course rejected, as all my proposals, but shortly after Prime Minister decreed that the names of the leaders were actually made public.)
There is some time Israeli television presented a documentary called "Gatekeepers" in which all living former heads of the Shin Bet and Mossad were asked about solutions to the conflict.
All with more or less force, argued in favor of a peace based on the "two-state solution." They expressed their opinion that there would be no peace unless the Palestinians get their own national state.
At the time, Tamir Pardo was head of Mossad and could not express opinions. But since the beginning of 2016, it again became a private person. This week he spoke in public for the first time.
As its name suggests, Pardo is a Sephardic Jew, born 63 years ago in Jerusalem. His family came from Turkey, where many Jews found refuge after their expulsion from Spain 525 years ago. It does not belong to the "Ashkenazi elite" so hated by the "eastern" part of the Jewish-Israeli society.
The essential element of the intervention of Pardo was a caveat: Israel heading towards a civil war. We’re not there yet, he said, but we’re going fast.
This is according to him, the main threat to Israel today. In fact, he said that this is the only threat. This statement means that the recent Mossad chief sees no military threat against Israel - neither from Iran nor Daech or anyone else. This is a direct challenge to the main element of the policy of Netanyahu that Israel is surrounded by dangerous enemies and death threats.
But Pardo sees a much more dangerous threat: a split within the Jewish society in Israel. We are not in civil war - for now. But "we’re going around the corner."
CIVIL WAR between whom? Usual answer: between "right" and "left."
As I already mentioned, the right and left in Israel do not have the same meaning as in the rest of the world. England, France and the United States the separation between left and right concerns the social and economic issues.
In Israel, we also have many socio-economic problems, of course. But the divide between "left" and "right" in Israel almost exclusively peace and occupation. If we want to end the occupation and making peace with the Palestinians, it is "left". If we want the annexation of the occupied territories and the colony development, it is "right".
But I suspect Pardo to think of a much deeper cleavage, without saying so explicitly: the divide between European Jews ( "Ashkenazi") and "Orientals" ( "Mizrahim"). The "Sephardic" ( "Spanish") community, to which Pardo belongs, is considered part of the Orientals.
What makes it so potentially dangerous cleavage, and which explains the serious warning of Pardo, is the fact that the overwhelming majority of the East is "right", nationalist and religious at least slightly, while the majority of Ashkenazi is "left", more oriented towards peace and secular. As Ashkenazim are also generally socially and economically better situated than the Orientals, the fracture is profound.
At the time of the birth of Pardo (1953), those of us who were already aware of the early separation were reassured with the idea that it was a passing phase. Such dissension is included after mass immigration, but the "melting pot" would make its effect, mixed marriages would help and, after a generation or two, all this would disappear and not see her again.
Well, that does not happen. On the contrary, the gap deepens rapidly. Mutual hatred signs become more obvious. Public discourse is full. Politicians, especially those on the right, base their careers on sectarian incentives, following the largest of all the inciters, Netanyahu.
Marriages between Ashkenazim and Sephardim are of no help. What happens is that the son and daughters of mixed marriages in general choose one of the two sides - and become extremists that edge.
An almost comical symptom is that the right, which was in power (with short interruptions) since 1977, still includes oppressed minority, blaming all his weaknesses the "old elites". This is not totally ridiculous because the "old elites" still play a dominant role in the economy, the media, the courts and the arts.
The mutual antagonism increases. Pardo himself gives a worrying example: its warning raised no storm. It went almost unnoticed: a short subject on television, a brief evocation inside pages of newspapers, and that is all. No need to panic, right?
A symptom that could have scared Pardo is the only unifying force for the Jews of the country - the military - is also a victim of the division.
The Israeli army was born long before Israel even in the pre-independence underground, and it was based on the kibbutzim socialist Ashkenazi. Traces of this past are still visible at the top. The generals are mostly Ashkenazi.
This may explain the strange fact that 43 years after the last real war (the Yom Kippur War in 1973), and 49 years after the army had become primarily a colonial police force, the military command remains more moderate than the world policy.
But another army grows from the base - an army many junior officers wear a yarmulke, an army whose recruits grew up in homes like that of Elor Azariya and were educated in Israel’s nationalist school system that has Azariya product.
The military trial of Azariya continues to divide Israel, months after its start and months before it ended with a verdict. Azariya, remember, was the sergeant who killed an Arab seriously injured striker, who already lay helpless on the ground.
Day after day, the case fascinates the country. The army command has threatened to something akin to a general mutiny already. The new defense minister, the settler Avigdor Lieberman, openly supports the soldier against the Chief of Staff, while Benjamin Netanyahu loose as usual, supported by both parties.
This judgment has long ceased to be a matter of discipline or moral, to become part of the deep division tearing Israeli society. The picture of the killer boyish face, with his mother sitting behind him in court and stroking her head, became the symbol of the civil war that threatens which Pardo speaks.
Many Israelis have started talking about "two Jewish societies" in Israel, some even speak of "two Jewish peoples" within the Israeli Jewish nation.
What holds them together?
The conflict, of course. The occupation. The state of perpetual war.
Yitzhak Frankenthal, bereaved parent and pillar of the Israeli peace forces, found an illuminating formula: it is not the Arab-Israeli conflict that was imposed on Israel. Quite the contrary: Israel maintains the conflict, because they need the conflict to simply exist.
This could explain the endless occupation. It fits well with the theory of Pardo of civil war looming. Only the feeling of unity created by the conflict is able to avoid it.
The conflict - or peace.