The Mossad Should Stay Out of the Limelight

October 13, 2021 | Zev Chafets
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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.

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