The Mossad Should Stay Out of the Limelight

In a recent speech to the Knesset, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett referred to a “complex” endeavor by Israeli intelligence operatives to find out the location of the body of Ron Arad—an Israeli airman who was captured in Lebanon in 1986. Dramatic stories soon followed in the Israeli press of the kidnapping of an Iranian general and other feats connected to this operation. Zev Chafets argues that Bennet erred by drawing attention to the Mossad’s activities:

One of the secrets of the Mossad’s success has been the success of its secrecy. The organization is under the direct control of the prime minister. It reports to no one else and has no spokesperson. Until recently, even the name of the agency’s head was a state secret.

[More to the point], the operation Bennett announced was an apparent failure. Arad’s body was not found. The Mossad doesn’t normally publicize its failures and things got more confusing after the new Mossad chief David Barnea later claimed it had been successful, though he did not elaborate.

There was no need to know and the Mossad’s credibility, as well as its effectiveness, is critical for Israel’s security. . . . The Mossad is built to be opaque. If it becomes transparent it will inevitably raise questions in friendly foreign agencies about the safety of shared information and joint operations. If prime ministers make a habit of flaunting successes, it can serve as an invitation and a justification for enemy retaliation. And misrepresenting operational failures as successes from the Knesset podium is neither good statecraft nor good politics.

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Israeli Security, Lebanon, Mossad, Naftali Bennett

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood