Out of a mundane, even silly development like the airing of an Israeli TV news report on the favored beverages for IDF and intelligence top brass on the 14th floor of the Kirya (Israel’s Pentagon), the identity of the deputy chief of the Shabak and the IDF general in charge of Israeli WMD has been exposed. If you look carefully at the list displayed (and know some Hebrew), you’ll see which beverages each commander specifies and how he likes it prepared. There are two names on the list that are concealed. Channel 10, when it aired its scoop, left exposed Nadav Argaman (strong, black, one sugar), deputy Shabak chief; and Brig. Gen. Uri Oron (black with cardamon, one sugar), commander of the IAF’s WMD program. In Israel, there is absolute secrecy around the identities of intelligence officials and those connected to nuclear weapons.
What’s hilarious about this story is that someone passed by a drink list posted in an office or hallway of the Kirya, which listed the each commander and the ways they like their coffee. Imagine this is codified at Israel’s Pentagon. There’s even a special note about the chief of staff’s requirements: bring a small plate and spoon, sugar on the side, milk without foam. Somehow this reassures that the IDF is up to the grave task of protecting the nation’s destiny.
The passerby snapped a shot of the list with their cell phone and leaked it to Channel 10. Et voila, a top secret spook gets outed!
A separate Haaretz article (Hebrew) mentions that Yoram Cohen (Shabak chief) has called “N.” back from a U.S. assignment. He’s described as just having completed a tour as the “counselor” in Israel’s UN mission. More specifically, Haaretz described his U.S. role as “chief of the North America security center.” He’s also in his 50s and served in the élite Sayeret Matkal (Special Forces commandos). He spent his entire Shabak career in “operations,” which includes apprehending terrorists. He has had relatively little experience with interrogations, “running” agents and counter terror.
For anyone out there who’s an Israeli intelligence groupie, it appears that future top officers are expected to do a tour in the U.S. as a form of “spook finishing school.” Alternatively, sometimes those officers who’ve hit the glass ceiling and will no longer be promoted and plan on ending their careers are offered a parting “sabbatical” abroad. Yoram Cohen, shortly before he became chief served as a think tank analyst for WINEP, the Aipac-affiliated outfit often quoted in the pages of liberal Zionist media like the NY Times (which almost never reveals the pro-Israel ideological orientation of the group).
This further reinforces the oft-heard complaint from U.S. intelligence services about the massive presence of Israeli intelligence in the U.S. Israel attaches the utmost importance to stealing as many military and technology secrets as it can here and appoints its most important personnel to participate in this project.
Returning to Brig. Gen. Oron: he is the son of Haim (“Jumes”) Oron, the former head of Meretz, Israel’s left-leaning political party. The excruciating irony of all this is that the Israeli Jewish party that is generally opposed to military confrontation, Occupation, and war (except once they’re declared–then they’re all for ’em), helped produce the officer who controls Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Can you conceived of anything more…bizarre?
A word of explanation for Israelis who this exposure angers: I expose Argaman’s identity because I strongly believe that secrecy destroys democracy. There is no good reason to conceal the names of Israeli intelligence officials unless they are serving undercover and protecting their identity is key to protecting their life. Otherwise, it serves no useful function.
But since Israel is not really a democracy, the intelligence apparatus can get away with far too much opacity, far too much covering of its ass when it errs. We can see that phenomenon displayed in the case of Ben Zygier, where we know next to nothing not only about what he did to deserve prison, but who ordered him jailed and who was responsible for his death.
I want Nadav Argaman and Uri Oron to be accountable for their actions and decisions. I don’t want them to hide behind anonymity.
And to think the original purpose of the Channel 10 news segment was to expose the fact that female soldiers make coffee for the general staff. Talk about missing the story!!
Thanks to two Israeli sources who offered vital help in reporting this story.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.