Mr. Shin Bet

By Ze’ev Schiff Until midnight Wednesday, the military censor forbade the publication of his name, and he was known by the first initial of his first name, „Y.,” deputy chief of the Shin Bet, Israel’s General Security Service. The minute Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided to appoint him to succeed Avi Dichter, the spotlights were directed his way. There are many who would like to know who Yuval Diskin is and what makes him and his views special. He is a man who rose through operations, with an impressive record in the war against terrorism, and he is known for being opinionated and for not shying away from defending his views. Diskin was in charge of the assassinations that started with the intifada that began in September 2000, a job he left in September 2003, when he took a sabbatical to study. The Shin Bet was at the head of these operations but it was a combined effort of Military Intelligence, the air force, Israel Defense Forces special units and the Israel Police. The Shin Bet set up special „war rooms” with their own doctrine of field security. What stood out, above all, was that intelligence guided and controlled operations, not the other way around. Yuval Diskin’s line was that at all times there is a need for an offensive approach, which led him to propose that not only should „ticking bombs” (terrorists on their way to carry out an attack) be targeted, but also those sending them on their lethal missions, as well as those preparing the explosives („ticking infrastructure”). Later the targeting was widened further to include the terror leadership, both to deter the terror organizations and to send a message to the other side. Diskin was also willing to admit errors such as the large bomb that was dropped on the home believed to house Salah Shehadeh, the head of the Hamas military wing in the Gaza Strip. The blast killed Shehadeh, his wife and 14 innocents living nearby. Despite the large number of assassinations carried out, Diskin was not afraid to say that they alone would not end Palestinian terrorism, that there is no absolute prevention, and even the killing of an important leader is insufficient to put an end to terrorism. For an end to terror, he said, there is a need for a diplomatic process. The success of the assassinations policy will be measured, he said, by its ability to create the conditions for the political echelon to reach its goals. This can only occur if the number of terrorist attacks is reduced to a minimum. That is what eventually happened. During his tenure at the top levels of the Shin Bet, some of Diskin’s views were impressive. For example, he said there was a need to examine Israel’s policy of exercising military strength. Diskin also questioned whether Israel had not used too much force, and caused the breakdown in the Palestinian side, not just of the Palestinian Authority but a more general, societal deterioration. In internal deliberations, Diskin in most cases supported the outgoing Dichter. For example, he also opposed the transfer of responsibility for Palestinian cities to the Palestinian Authority before an agreement was reached on how to deal with fugitive militants in every such city. However, he opposed the expulsion of Yasser Arafat from the territories. He also agreed with those who argued that the absence of hope among the Palestinians was what drove them to suicide attacks. Dichter is leaving his post as an end to the military confrontation with the Palestinians is at hand. It is a time marked by the death of Arafat and the rise of Mahmoud Abbas, whom Israel believes is sincere in his intentions to put an end to the violence. Diskin is taking over during a period characterized by the Sharon government’s decision to disengage from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank. This means that the Shin Bet will have to increase its focus on possible scenarios of extremist Jews violating the law. The Shin Bet will also have to keep a close eye on Hezbollah and Iran and their role in efforts to undermine the current cease-fire. Now the Shin Bet will have to tighten its bonds with their Egyptian and Jordanian counterparts and find the right methods for cooperating with the Palestinian security forces, currently undergoing reforms under the eye of an American „overseer.” BPI-info