Maj. Gen. (ret.) Shlomo Gazit
What happens to senior intelligence officials once they retire from the army?
Politicians and journalists, mainly right-wingers, criticize security-service veterans who, as soon as they are discharged from the system, articulate what they brand as “extreme left-wing opinions”. These veterans are faced with intense criticism: “If this was your opinion while you were serving the State, why did you not quit, and why did you not make your voice heard?”.
I have not requested the permission of my fellow veterans, but as one who was in uniform for nearly forty years, and as one who has never shied away from expressing my opinion or my criticism, “left-wing” as it may appear, I shall allow myself to express myself in their name as well.
The aftermath of the Six Day War, and especially the awakening after the Yom Kippur War and peace accords with Egypt, divided and still divide the nation today.
On the one side lies the political and ideological majority which embraced a policy of mass-settlement. This policy coincides with the concept of the entire Land of Israel, promised to us either by force, by divine intervention, or by the political processes of our world in the 21st century. On the other side lies the political minority which chooses to appreciate the demographic reality of the region and the external and internal threats to our existence. This side understands that there is a need for tough and immediate concessions, without which the Jewish state’s existence is at risk.
While we are still in uniform, serving the state, we are barred from expressing our opinions. Once every few years, per our civic duty, we do so in a sealed envelope during the elections. No one knows, no one asks, and it has no effect on our work – and this is a positive thing.
As an individual who has served for many years in the Intelligence Corps of the IDF, I oversaw the effective operation of the Intelligence community, and its ability to carry out its duties in the best possible way. During those same years, there was absolutely no significance to whether or not I supported or identified with the policies of the government of Israel. Indeed, here and there, I was involved in discussions in political forums and was expected to express my professional opinions freely on these matters. In many instances my opinions were in contrast with the course of action ultimately agreed upon. No one ever denied me that right. We, in the Intelligence community, dealt with the Middle-Eastern region in general, and the Palestinian issue in particular. This was our field of responsibility and we would have been in breach of our mandate had we presented opinions that did not match our professional assessment merely to satisfy our superiors.
Our “Left-wingedness” has nothing to do with us being out of uniform, but rather the requirement to learn and become experts on the issue of the Arab enemy-opponent. We were required, per our position, to discuss, analyze and present assessments that attempt to predict forthcoming events, and to avoid optimistic assessments that had no solid basis. Once we retired from our position, we were then permitted to express our opinions publicly as well, subject to relevant security restrictions.
I do understand politicians who are required to deal publicly with contrasting professional assessments rather than different political opinions. But my advice to them, as to us all, is to listen carefully to the warning messages projected by security professionals. Try to deal with the content of what they say rather than with the question of why they have been silent to this point.