Eitan Haber
Photo: Shalom Bar Tal
Time to face reality
Many Israelis still believe ‘almighty IDF’ can easily eliminate Iranian nuke threat
Former IDF Intelligence Chief, Major General (Res.) Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, made one of the greatest mistakes of his life last week: He apparently uttered the truth – and who in the State of Israel wishes to hear the truth these days?


In a recent interview with Ynet, Zeevi said that Israel would not be able to address the Iranian nuclear threat on its own and would need America’s assistance. Therefore, he said, some modesty is required on Israel’s part.


The words uttered by the former intelligence chief, regardless of whether they are correct or wise, prompted a wave of responses online. And what are the people saying? Unbelievable – in March 2009, after everything we have gone through, there are still people living around here who think in terms of the Six-Day War, as if 42 years did not pass since then.


The head of the IDF intelligence branch is the most important government official, or at least one of the three or four most important officials in the State of Israel. Much depends on what he says. Relatively few people realize this, but the intelligence chief is the person who decides what the prime minister, defense minister, and even chief of staff know. His desk is used to classify thousands of reports – the “row material” – and from there they are relayed, with interpretations, to the “consumers – that is, the prime minister and others.


A mistake by the intelligence chief – and who doesn’t make mistakes? – can be fateful. On this front, interested parties may wish to look into what happened here on the eve of Yom Kippur in 1973.


The person selected for the post of IDF intelligence chief is usually of a special ilk: A combination of a fighter and an intellectual – the thinking fighter. Former intelligence chiefs have already become chiefs of staff and defense ministers, including Defense Minister-designate Bogi Yaalon.


The IDF intelligence chief usually weighs his words carefully. We therefore must assume that Major General Zeevi-Farkash uttered his words after he consulted with others, after he scrutinized the “row material” and the Intelligence Branch’s assessments, and after he convinced himself this was the time and place to speak out and end the illusions.


IDF is no superman

However, in this country we still have a very large public, represented in the talkbacks, who believes in miracles, and especially in the incredible, rare, amazing abilities of the IDF and other security agencies. In these people’s view, we are the chosen people and can do anything. We are the greatest. At this very moment we must be digging a secret tunnel from the Tel Aviv-area to the Iranian reactor, and one of these days it will go up in flames. We are the gods of Hocus-Pocus and we’ll be burning Iran and its nuclear program.


This incredible sense of arrogance is untroubled by the fact that for years now we have not convincingly won a war (i.e. the War of Attrition, the Yom Kippur War, the first and second Lebanon wars,) and that it’s already been revealed that the IDF’s last name is not “superman.”


The problem of eliminating the Iranian nuclear threat, as noted by Zeevi-Farkash, is indeed the toughest of all security problems we’ve faced since the State’s establishment, and indeed, “a little modesty” is required of us. It certainly wouldn’t hurt.


When I was young I learned to listen to those who sound the alarm; to the unusual, different people who view things and the future differently: This is how I learned about Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who kept on issuing warnings, yet the Jews in Europe failed to listen to him in the 1930s. The problem today is that many of the talkbackers apparently have no recollection of who this man was, as he doesn’t take part in the “Big Brother” reality TV show.


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