Shortly before the evacuation of Sinai, the IDF held a maneuvering exercise with the participation of two divisions. The Spokesperson's Unit took advantage of the opportunity to train its chocolate soldiers in navigation. I was called up for reserve duty and roamed the desert for half a day until I managed to reach one of the division commanders – a brigadier-general named Ehud Barak. He was standing at a hilltop near a drawing board and used arrows to illustrate how his forces would defeat the "attacking forces." Two decades have passed, but I can still see the image clearly: A small man who is completely sure of himself with an ironic, perhaps even malicious smile on his face. If I remember correctly he crushed the "enemy" in that drill.
Since then I have met Barak several times, and I always get the impression that he easily achieves goals others have to sweat profusely for. This elegance captivates me, but after each meeting I rub my head to make sure he did not steal my brain.
I was introduced to Benjamin Netanyahu under entirely different circumstances. I was angry with my colleagues for ridiculing him when he was elected to his first term as prime minister, and I was livid after reading an article that mocked Netanyahu because he would read books in his tent, kept his distance and arrived at the operation to rescue the passengers of the Sabena plane in his private car. The man rushed to risk his life and was condemned for it. I was furious. I assume he considered me a precious friend from the leftist camp, so when he and his wife were interrogated in the Amedi-gifts affair, he would visit my home while his wife was being questioned and pour his heart out to me.
I got the impression that he was a vulnerable, decent, highly intelligent and educated man who was driven by a sense of mission, but also that while he was confident in his abilities, he did not have deep-rooted self-confidence and trained himself to play the role of a leader.
I am not in awe of him, nor do I discount him. My political views are vastly different from Netanyahu's, but self-righteousness and gossip anger me more than political views that are opposed to mine.
This is why I was so angry upon reading former Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin's description of a meeting at Mossad headquarters, during which crucial issues were discussed. The cigar smoking did not shock me, and a little sip, from my experience, can clarify things rather than blur them. A few examples came to mind: Winston Churchill led Great Britain in World War Two while smoking cigars and drinking cognac; Golda Meir smoked constantly, conducted crucial consultations in her humble kitchen, led a puritanical lifestyle and screwed us all during the Yom Kippur War. Moshe Dayan acted like a pirate and led the army to victory in two wars, but he failed in the Yom Kippur War, and not because he did not manage meetings well or drank and smoked cigars. He did not commit any of those sins. Political leaders without weaknesses do not exist, just as there are no senior civil servants who do not have any weaknesses.
And here is the proof of the latter group's weakness: Yuval Diskin, Meir Dagan and to a lesser extent Uzi Arad are peeing out the window into the room they had exited a short while ago. For years they were privy to the most secret information and assisted the leaders in formulating the country's security policy. Now they claim they identified the distorted manner in which decisions were reached in that room, warn of the dangers of such conduct and criticize the leaders' moral corruption – but at the time they did not resign from their posts and did not warn us of the impending dangers.
Why? It is either because their careers were more important to them than warning the Israeli public, or they believed, in their arrogance, that they are irreplaceable. Either that or they are not telling us the truth.