In the past, I’ve posted about the competition between two senior Shin Bet officers to become the next chief, replacing the current one, Yoram Cohen. Though Israeli media cannot name these figures, I did quite some time ago. Now Haaretz reporter, Sefi Rachlevsky, writing about the wasted opportunity the world presented Israel over the past year to secure its future in the Middle East, (obliquely) names the apparent winner of the competition:
At the end of Chinatown the slogan appears: “Do as little as possible.” Under Netanyahu, this has been the motto passed on the heads of Israel’s five operational arms: military, intelligence, Shin Bet, Mossad, police, and state prosecutor. Don’t initiate. Don’t act in the region. Keep your head down. Act only on technical matters. The few within these agencies who are go-getters are people like R.–who’s been designated as the next Shin Bet chief. This is someone beside whom [Col.] Ofer Winter looks quite moderate. But the rest who aren’t [as] messianic, look to do as little as possible.
“R.” in this case is Roni Alsheikh, a former settler of Yemenite ethnic origin. His nickname is “The Fox,” since he’s known for using wiles rather than brute force (though he’s been known to use that as well) in his security interrogations. Like much of the senior leadership of all the security agencies, Alsheikh is Orthodox. From the implications of this passage it appears his political views heartily endorse the settler enterprise.
You can see where this is going. Israeli democracy, dying a slow death at the hands of the radical right will be strangled like a baby in its cradle by the incoming Shin Bet chief. The witch hunts against Palestinians both inside Israel and in the Territories will escalate. The Iron Hand will clench its fist even tighter. Religious war, just now simmering in Jerusalem, will be brought to the boiling point. Formerly marginal figures like Moshe Feiglin and Yehudah Glick will be given the run of the Temple Mount. Al Aqsa will be sealed more often (yesterday was the first time since 1967 it was closed to Muslim worship). Instead of stealing the homes of scores of East Jerusalem settlers, hundreds and thousands will be expelled by settler NGOs like Elad.
Alshkeikh is the paragon of the Yeats poem:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Haaretz columnist, Amir Oren, warned of Orthodox settlerism taking over the intelligence services, particularly the Shin Bet:
Shin Bet’s leaders are recruiting and promoting in their own [Orthodox] image, and middle-level managers, therefore, see this as a model to emulate. The annual evaluation of Shin Bet employees now includes an arbitrary question, infuriating in its ambiguousness: Does the employee “act in accordance with a Zionist value system”? The Shin Bet is now filled with religious employees, much greater than their percentage in the population. Religious women doing national civilian service receive priority over secular women soldiers for interesting intelligence posts, and many remain in the Shin Bet…
The headline of today’s Haaretz weekly magazine blares: “Will tomorrow’s soldiers be fighting for the sanctification of God’s name?” It goes on to describe the increasing Orthodox militancy of the IDF officer corps and the troublesome dilemma it poses for Israeli society.
There is nothing strange about this. Israel has grown progressively more right-wing Orthodox over the past decades. The secularism that dominated society for the first decades of the state (till roughly 1967) has been subsumed by the rising tide and ideological fervor of the militant Orthodox. This wave is unstoppable, at least through internal domestic means.
Roni Alsheikh represents the future. So do other far-right politicians like Avigdor Lieberman, Moshe Feiglin and Danny Danon, who each covet the prime ministership. These men are not ciphers like Netanyahu tends to be. They are full of passionate intensity which is very likely to lead, as Yeats wrote, to this apocalyptic future:
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
The question is: is the world prepared to stand by while “mere anarchy is loosed upon the world?” Or will it step forward and take action? Action that will be difficult to muster and controversial to undertake? Will we continue to “lack conviction” as the center no longer holds?