Do security chiefs make good ministers?

Ex-defense officials popular despite being mum on policy positions

Since journalist and television personality Shelly Yechimovitz announced she was entering politics, she has given many interviews, each one turning into an argument between Yechimovitz and whoever happens to be conducting the interview.


Her opinions about economics, social issues synagogue and state issues are hashed and rehashed and have been criticized more than once.


Similarly, Yechimovitz's new party chairman, Amir Peretz, also gives many interviews, and receives – mainly from economic journalists – real criticism.


Peretz is a real expert in the topics he is asked about, journalists take an opposing stance, and the ensuing debate not only clarifies positions taken by a man hoping to be the next prime minister, but also helps ordinary people, as much as a TV interview can, formulate their opinions on the important issues of the day.


It's the same with Benjamin Netanyahu, Peretz's ideological rival, in statements about economics and society.


Dichter popular – but why?


There is just one type of candidate that has no need to clarify anything. Over the weekend, a poll was published showing former Shin Bet head Avi Dichter – who has yet to formally announce his entry into politics but has nonetheless been promised an operative role in Kadima's election campaign – is especially popular amongst members of Ariel Sharon's party.


Dichter has yet to be publicly interviewed on political, or other, matters. What do we know about him? That his Shin Bet efficiently provided intelligence information for targeted killings, that he actively supported the building of the West Bank security fence, that he opposed the Gaza disengagement, even if once he realized the penny had dropped – he fell into line, as did the rest of the executive branch.


We have no idea what his opinions are about borders, negotiations with the Palestinians, to say nothing of questions such as the future of pension funds, that Amir Peretz – a candidate for prime minister, let's remember – is asked about night and day.


Why? Because Peretz is a civilian. Civilian questions have high media ratings, despite the fact that they constitute but a small part of the decision-making process for most voters. This can be seen by Ariel Sharon's – a prime minister who has had virtually nothing to do with the civilian affairs of the State of Israel - overwhelming popularity. There are virtually no questions about security, not about the past and not about the future.


Good at security, not so great in government


Dichter was a great security official. In the eyes of the public, so were former chiefs of staff Shaul Mofaz, Moshe Ya'alon (who has yet to join any party, but we assume that as soon as his name is mentioned he will also turn into a popular candidate) and others.


History shows that those good at security aren't usually that great as government ministers. But we don't bother asking about their opinions or programs like we do every day with "civilian" candidates – even though they have far less influence on the vote.


And so, it turns out that with regard to security and diplomacy, most Israelis do not believe that the person called "leader" is really the one who sets the agenda – or, to be more exact, the determining factor is a leader's ability to carry out a plan, regardless of what he thought at first.


In any event, the basic position has not changed, and the leader and the nation are drawn by events. They do not dictate them. Sharon, who carried out a program he vocally opposed just one year prior, is the greatest example of this.


With regard to security, a performance record (preferably, but not necessarily, successful) is all a candidate really needs.


פרסום ראשון: 12.11.05, 17:16
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