Former Israeli spymaster: We need to talk to Iran

Laura Rozen writes: Efraim Halevy served as chief of the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, under three Israeli prime ministers and led the secret negotiations with Jordan’s King Hussein that made way for Israel’s historic 1994 peace treaty with that country. Other assignments in a four-decade government career include serving as Mossad station chief in Washington in the 1970s under then-Israeli ambassador to the United States Yitzhak Rabin, for whom, as prime minister, Halevy served as Mossad chief until Rabin’s 1995 assassination. Halevy also served as Israeli national security advisor and Israeli ambassador to the European Union in the late 1990s.

Born in Britain — Halevy moved to Israel in 1948 at the age of 14 — and wearing a trench coat with a newspaper tucked under his arm on a drizzly morning in Washington on Friday, Oct. 19, Halevy, 78, evoked George Smiley, the protagonist in the John Le Carre British spy novels, who is burdened by the knowledge of state secrets too sensitive and ugly to share. But it is Halevy’s fierce advocacy for dialogue with mortal enemies such as Iran and Hamas, combined with a biography laden with hard political experience, that makes him so iconoclastic, especially in the current Israeli political and national security landscape.

“I was 40 years in the business of dealing with adversaries — some of them very bitter ones, some we fought successive wars with,” Halevy said in an interview with Al-Monitor. “Over the years … I realized that, in order to be effective with one’s enemies, you have to have two essential capabilities: To overcome them by force if necessary … And do everything you can to get into their minds and try to understand how they see things … and where if at all there is room for common ground of one kind or another.”

“I think that what we have had over the years is an abundance of one side, and a dearth of the other,” Halevy said.

Halevy most especially emphasized the need for dialogue with Iran, and to try to understand the Iranians — a position rarely heard from top Israeli officials, even those who have expressed opposition to unilateral Israeli military action on Iran.

“The Iranians, in their heart of hearts, would like to get out of their conundrum,” Halevy told Al-Monitor. “The sanctions have been very effective. They are beginning to really hurt.” [Continue reading…]

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