On Israel Independence Day, several exemplary Israelis are chosen to light the torch at a special national ceremony marking the commencement of the day. This year, the theme of the ceremony will be: trailblazers. One of those chosen was Israeli Palestinian TV host, Lucy Aharish, a notable safe, liberal Zionist choice. But there is particular controversy over another individual chosen. She is Sima Shine, the former director of the Mossad’s research unit. There is only one reason she was chosen: her boss is Yuval Steinitz, the minister for strategic affairs, and a close Netanyahu confidant. The prime minister, in the past government, had to remove him from his prestigious senior finance portfolio in order to placate Yair Lapid. So Bibi owes him.
When Shine’s name was announced a furor erupted (Hebrew) within the ranks of the Mossad, especially among female Mossad personnel, 60 of whom signed a letter of protest to the culture minister, who approves these honors. The reasons offered for appointing Shine were that she was the highest ranking field agent within the agency and that she was a trailblazer for herself and other women. In fact, it emerged that Shine had advanced her career not as a trailblazer, but in one of the oldest ways imaginable. She essentially slept her way to the top. She had an affair with her boss, Uri Neeman, who served as director of the research division (how she won that job). After he resigned from the Mossad, they married and it became clear they’d been carrying on an affair while both were serving. She wasn’t a field agent, nor was she involved in operations, which are the positions most coveted and respected. Rather she was a desk jockey; and didn’t help other women within the ranks. She helped herself.
In fact, another women served as deputy director of the Mossad, a position more senior than Shine’s. Many women are field operatives who risk their lives for their country and she was never one of those. Unlike them, she never made a unique contribution to the security of the nation, as the statement which announced her appointment claimed. Those who protested her appointment said it misrepresented the truth and “misled the public.” They said that Shine “isn’t remembered by anyone in the Mossad as someone who made great achievements there.”
Further, it turns out that despite the fact that Steinitz presented the honor as a mark of respect to the Mossad, no one in the agency asked for her appointment. It was the minister’s wish and essentially his alone. Had the agency been asked, the protesting agents declared, it would’ve suggested other women be honored instead.
Shine was also accused, while she worked there, of obtaining sensitive intelligence information from the agency which was outside her sphere of responsibility. She passed this on to Neeman, her husband, after he’d already left the Mossad’s employ and was a civilian. This is a very serious charge. But she didn’t receive any serious punishment. Rather, she left the agency and transferred to the National Security Council. When Uzi Arad became its director (he’d been one of her bosses at the Mossad), he fired her. She then transferred to work under Steinitz, where she is today.
Both the Mossad and Shin Bet have long histories of both sexual harassment and exploitation of both male and female personnel. Affairs of bosses with subordinates abound. There are instances in which bosses harmed the careers of men with whose wives they were conducting sexual relationships. For some reason, this doesn’t tarnish the reputation of either agency in the eyes of the Israeli public. Sexual peccadilloes are a small price to pay, apparently, for those who keep the nation safe from foreign enemies. No thought seems to be given that those who have the greatest responsibility to defend the nation should be held to high moral standards as well. In fact, moral standards seem to be fairly low on the totem pole both for personnel, and espionage operations themselves.