Newly-appointed Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin

Shin Bet at a crossroads

Newly-appointed Director Yuval Diskin has his work cut out for him

When Avi Dichter became Shin Bet chief five years ago, the headlines were much more subdued than those appearing in today's newspapers. Back then, the Shin Bet was known mainly for its failures, including the Yitzhak Rabin assassination debacle.


Even the organization's successes (those made public), such as the continuous foiling of terror attacks, did not put the Shin Bet in the spotlight.


Five years later the Shin Bet has a public profile that measures up to that of the IDF in its prestige, even though it is not as exposed as the IDF (many are familiar with an IDF brigade commander's duties, but few know what a Shin Bet operations director actually does.)


The budding image pertains to the fact that since September 2000 the organization has stood in the forefront of the fight against the Palestinians. During the past two years the number of terror acts against Israel has been reduced to such a rate that the public has been able to return to a reasonable daily routine; the Shin Bet has been credited with this change no less than the IDF has.


The organization's chief has also become a public figure, under much more comfortable conditions than the IDF chief of staff, as the Shin Bet operates clandestinely – it is not the people's army.


The Shin Bet chief is not obligated to give special holiday interviews, answer complex questions, or take a stand on issues that are of no concern to him.


These conditions helped strengthen Dichter's image even more.


Dichter, who is stepping down from the lucrative post on Sunday, knew how to efficiently convey his messages to Knesset committees and to the public, but most importantly he was a success on an operational level.


The vast majority of terror attack attempts were thwarted, and the Shin Bet's cooperation with the IDF, which was not obvious five years ago, is now studied by foreign security services.


Something extra


A major part of the organization's success under Dichter was designed by former Shin Bet deputy chief and newly-appointed Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin.


Diskin is inheriting an organization during a complicated period. His first major task is the disengagement, a task that may be made public only in case of failure, God forbid.


If right-wing extremists will be unsuccessful in their attempt to foil the pullout by carrying out acts of madness aimed at Jews or Arabs, it is doubtful whether we will even know such plans were ever devised; if they succeed, the Shin Bet will be held responsible.


Simultaneous to the disengagement, the organization will continue with its efforts on the terror front, and after the disengagement, Diskin may find the time to carry out an equally important mission: Participation in the molding of public perception.


When former Prime Minister Ehud Barak selected Dichter over Yisrael Hasson to run the Shin Bet, he chose between two highly-acclaimed individuals with completely different approaches regarding the organization's involvement in matters that are beyond its daily operational tasks.


According to Hasson's public statements, it was safe to assume he would have taken a different, less strict stance than Dichter on a number of crucial issues that molded the Israeli viewpoint since September 2000.


The rise in the Shin Bet's prestige and recognition places its new chief in a different public position: Most importantly, he must work to fight terror and contain anti-disengagement activists, but he must also offer the Israeli public something extra.


According to those who know him, Diskin is more than capable of dealing with the grave tasks at hand.


פרסום ראשון: 05.15.05, 11:52
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