New Shin Bet Director Yoram Cohen
Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg
Uri Orbach
Photo: Tomer Barzide

So what if he’s religious?

Op-ed: New Shin Bet chief’s loyalty to State should not be questioned because he’s religious

The fact that new Shin Bet Director Yoram Cohen is religious apparently perturbs some members of Israel’s media and public sphere. The examples are everywhere. “He wears a kippah, yet at the same time is considered completely loyal to the State,” Channel 2 commentator Amnon Abramovitch told us. “He is a moderate,” reassured us former Shin Bet Chief Yaakov Peri. Other commentators also told us that we can all drink a glass of water and relax, because even though Cohen is religious, and who knows who he meets at night, we can trust him.


The same thing happened to Yaakov Amidror a few weeks ago, only less gently. Haaretz wrote that he may have a problem working on Shabbat, while other journalists wrote about his rightist views; as if hundreds and thousands of senior figures holding liberal, leftist views are not regularly appointed here to various sensitive posts.


Indeed, officials who object to the “occupation” are nonetheless entrusted with the most sensitive posts and state secrets, without fearing that they’ll end up compromising them like Anat Kam or handing them over to the enemy. So what? With the exception of a few marginal nutcases, we don’t pay attention to the personal views of senior IDF and Shin Bet officials. Moreover, we cannot question a person’s suitability for a job because he’s part of a certain community.


Nobody knows the political views of the new Shin Bet chief, even if he’s religious. And even if he holds some kind of political views, they’re not supposed to be especially relevant to the new post.


Times are changing

Yet for the time being, the old and suspicious guard, which likes to label people, is showing its displeasure: “Help! The religious are taking over Israel! First it was the first religious IDF general, next it was the deputy chief of staff, now we have a religious national security advisor, and soon a religious Shin Bet chief will take up the post.” These unpleased souls are of course not voicing their objection loudly, as that wouldn’t be proper; they merely hint, click their tongues, and point a figure: “We didn’t say he’s unfit, we only wanted you to pay attention to…”


Once upon a time, this would anger me much more. The mechanisms dedicated to preserving power in the media, judicial system, academia and cultural sphere worked for many years. Yet thank God (and please forgive me for using this expression,) times are changing. For more than 20 years now, Israeli society is undergoing fascinating processes. We see a natural process of changing of the guard and religious individuals, immigrants and women are reaching senior posts in all areas. Soon we’ll see the haredim there too. This isn’t happening fast enough, but it’s happening, and the waning reservations we’re hearing are a rearguard battle, not an all-out war.


We see new generations and tastes in music and culture, and new voices are being heard in the media and elsewhere across society. It is no wonder that these new voices and tastes are not always to the liking of the old guard. Some of the old guard’s members are convinced that senior religious officials are preoccupied with deliberations on whether to follow their commander or rabbi. Hence, every such Yoram Cohen or Yair Naveh or Yaakov Amidror is causing them heartburn. What they fail to understand is that a religious official’s loyalty to the State mostly stems from his being religious.


But let’s conclude on an optimistic note. The fact that “the first religious person” already reached all sorts of posts that a religious mother would not dream of in the past is making this into a routine affair; something that doesn’t draw much attention, no big deal.


Uri Orbach is the chairman of HaBait HaYehudi faction



פרסום ראשון: 03.30.11, 11:08
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