Nahum Barnea

Mum's the word

Israeli government's silence in wake of Syria incident a rarity these days

What has been happening during the last few days in the political establishment is so rare that it may very well be termed unnatural.


On Thursday before daylight, the Syrians discovered that Israeli aircraft were flying over their heads. Jettisoned fuel tanks were discovered on the Turkish-Syrian border. Syria is making threats. TV stations in the Arab world are in frenzy. Turkey is concerned. In the words of the historical "Davar" newspaper headline, the world is in turmoil.


And only our heads of state are keeping mum. There are no leaks, no clues, no self patting on the back. Songs by poet Nathan Alterman are not being played. Mum's the word.


Because they are behaving contrary to their nature, perhaps we too can do so and compliment them on their silence.


The Israeli defense establishment has chatted itself to death lately. Everything was made public, indiscriminately. The gap between the publication of unclassified information and the publication of state secrets is as small as the gap between the morning and evening news broadcasts.


We reached a peak during the Second Lebanon War. A classical case of a system in a crisis was created: The difficulties and failures of the war necessitated incisive public clarification, which inevitably revealed security-related information.


Mud bath

Revealing the information was part of the rehabilitation process. However, the exposure also constituted part of the failure: Every officer who didn't like the order he was issued shared his complaints with the media. Every officer who was branded as inadequate kicked the guilt above him, beneath him and sideways in the hope of shifting his trial to the court of public opinion.


This is apparently the only way the defense establishment knows how to cleanse itself; by means of a mud bath.


We may assume that the welcomed silence of the past week won't last. The story will come out. If not here than by foreign reports. If not in the traditional media then over the internet. If not now, on the eve of elections. Or during the next coalition crisis, or prior to a reshuffle at the General Staff headquarters, or in the next interview one of the partners to the secret will grant in his slippers.


The generation of Israelis who took their secrets to the grave (or at least to their retirement) is no longer with us, and a generation that does not suffice with losses has risen in its stead: It requires immediate gratification, if there is a headline, it will appear immediately.


This is the reason why every Israeli journalist is restless. He would like to be the first to break the story. He finds the thought that he may be the second particularly disturbing.


פרסום ראשון: 09.10.07, 22:26
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