Efraim Halevy, the former head of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, titled his memoirs “Man in the Shadows.” But now that he’s out in the sunlight, the 72-year-old retired spy chief has some surprisingly contrarian things to say about Iran and Syria. The gist of his message is that rather than constantly ratcheting up the rhetoric of confrontation, the United States and Israel should be looking for ways to establish a creative dialogue with these adversaries.
Halevy is a legendary figure in Israel because of his nearly 40 years of service as an intelligence officer, culminating in his years as Mossad’s director from 1998 to 2003. He managed Israel’s secret relationship with Jordan for more than a decade, and he became so close to King Hussein that the two personally negotiated the 1994 agreement paving the way for a peace treaty. So when Halevy talks about the utility of secret diplomacy, he knows whereof he speaks.
Of course, Halevy looks like the fictional master spy George Smiley — thinning hair, wise but weary eyes, the rumpled manner of someone who might have been a professor in another life. And Halevy has the gift of anonymity: You would look right past him in a crowded room, never imagining that he was the man who had conducted daring secret missions. After he appeared here with former CIA director George Tenet at a conference sponsored by the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center, Halevy agreed to sit down for an interview.
Halevy suggests that Israel should stop its jeremiads that Iran poses an existential threat to the Jewish state. The rhetoric is wrong, he contends, and it gets in the way of finding a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear problem.
“I believe that Israel is indestructible,” he insists. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may boast that he wants to wipe Israel off the map, but Iran’s ability to consummate this threat is “minimal,” he says. “Israel has a whole arsenal of capabilities to make sure the Iranians don’t achieve their result.” Even if the Iranians did obtain a nuclear weapon, says Halevy, “they are deterrable,” because for the mullahs, survival and perpetuation of the regime is a holy obligation. [complete article]