We can only speculate about whether Meir Dagan, ex-chief of Mossad (counterpart to America’s CIA), and Yuval Diskin, ex-chief 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 talked about.”
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 Israel’s agenda.
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 ex-chiefs assiduously build up as a demented and dangerous pair.
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 verbal regurgitation?
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 handing it all over to Ha’aretz reporter Uri Blau who absconded with it.
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 ended.
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 most minimal 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 adulation.
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’ professed professionalism.
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 them?
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 elected representatives.
Beyond this issue of elementary civic hygiene looms the Iranian menace. 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 rail.
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 pulled off via 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 ayatollahs.
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 Ahmedinejad.
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.