columnIsrael at War

The paving of a former Shin Bet chief’s path in politics

Nadav Argaman’s hyped-up interview with Ilana Dayan was a let-down, other than to Netanyahu’s enemies.

Then-Shin Bet director Nadav Argaman attends a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, Nov. 6, 2018. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90.
Then-Shin Bet director Nadav Argaman attends a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, Nov. 6, 2018. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90.
Ruthie Blum. Credit: Courtesy.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, an author and award-winning columnist, is a former adviser at the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Two days before Iran attacked Israel with hundreds of drones and missiles, Channel 12’s investigative current-affairs program “Uvda” conducted an in-depth interview with former Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) director Nadav Argaman. The teasers for the broadcast, hosted by Ilana Dayan, promised bombshell revelations about the Oct. 7 massacre.

Despite the left-wing slant of the well-known TV show, viewers across the political spectrum tuned in on Thursday night to watch it. Reeling from and in the throes of Hamas’s invasion of Israel’s southern border six months ago—when its sadistic foot soldiers committed the worst atrocities against Jews since the Holocaust—everyone in the country remains hungry for any sliver of information that might shed light on the travesty.

Capabilities that Israelis had always taken for granted were intelligence-gathering and security. The failure of both prior to and during that “Black Sabbath” shook a core communal foundation.

The question of how the government and Israel Defense Forces weren’t prepared for the mass enemy onslaught, and therefore didn’t prevent or put an immediate stop to it, still lingers, unanswered. That 133 hostages have yet to be freed by their brutal captors in Gaza makes the national need to understand what happened on Oct. 7 even more pressing.

Argaman was invited by Dayan to explain it. After all, he served for decades in the Shin Bet, which he headed for more than five years, starting in 2016. And it was Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu who appointed him to the position.

Anyone hoping to be enlightened by the hyped-up dialogue was let down, however. Other than Dayan, of course, who achieved her transparent aim of having an “expert” blame Bibi for the debacle.

It was a no-brainer that Argaman would deliver the goods. He’s been an “anybody but Bibi” activist since early 2023, when he signed a letter condemning the Netanyahu coalition’s initiative to reform Israel’s judicial system.

Yes, he was one of the hysterics claiming that such a move would constitute the death of democracy and the birth of Bibi as a full-fledged dictator. Raising the issue with Dayan, he argued, “This government is ultimately responsible for Oct. 7, because the judicial overhaul is what led to the weakening of Israel in the eyes of our enemies.”

He conveniently omitted the bit about opponents of the reforms spending months protesting in the streets, blocking highways and signaling to anti-Zionists the world over that they were right to denounce Israel as evil.

Yet he was correct about the watchful gaze of Israel’s foes. Indeed, the ayatollahs in Tehran and their proxies in Gaza, Lebanon and Yemen were taking note of the internecine strife. Terrorists who participated in the slaughter on Simchat Torah reported as much to their interrogators.

Somehow, though, the perpetrators didn’t come off as the main villains in Argaman’s tale. No, he reserved that distinction for Netanyahu.

In his view, Bibi is a divide-and-conquer sort of guy who deliberately tore Israeli society apart in order to retain power.  

“Netanyahu is not fit to be the prime minister of Israel…[or] a leader of the Jewish people,” he told Dayan.

To back up this inane assertion, he claimed that Netanyahu constantly pooh-poohed his warnings that Hamas was not deterred from attacking Israel and dismissed Shin Bet plans to assassinate the group’s top guns.

When he went on to say that, well, it was the Israel Defense Forces that disputed the Shin Bet on how to deal with Hamas, Dayan let it slide. So much for “Uvda”—Hebrew for “fact”—living up to its name.

Nor did Argaman provide inside dope surrounding or insight into the Shin Bet’s part in the Oct. 7 fiasco.

“The system I knew was different,” he said. “Why it happened, how it happened, what enabled all of it to converge on a single moment when they [Hamas] took us by surprise…I don’t know how to answer these questions. I can say that [members of the security establishment] are very good, serious people, with vast experience…I can’t understand it; I can’t understand it.”

In other words, credentials aside, Argaman is just as clueless as the rest of us; more so, actually, as his address last month in Tel Aviv at the Institute for National Security Studies conference indicates.

“The Palestinian Authority is not a body that encourages terrorism; it’s certainly not a terrorist organization,” he stated at the podium—with a straight face, no less. “The P.A. sees itself as living by [Israel’s] side.”

If this is the thinking of a longtime security chief about the metaphorical Boston Strangler, no wonder Israel was caught off guard by a proverbial Jack the Ripper. Talk about living in the la-la-land of false conceptions.

Which brings us back to Ilana Dayan. As an intro to her underwhelming conversation with Argaman, she introduced two anonymous sources who ostensibly belong to the team negotiating a deal for the release of the hostages.

With their faces blurred and voices distorted, these literal and figurative shadowy figures first professed devastation over the dire straits of the captives, and then blasted Netanyahu for not doing enough to bring them home.

One recounted being told by Bibi “not to be creative” in the talks. The other grudgingly admitted that a different prime minister might not succeed at securing a hostage deal, but at least would try harder.

Are these people for real?

If so, the families of the hostages should be demanding their immediate ouster. Instead, one of the relatives at the weekly gathering in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening recited passages from the dubious duo’s and Argaman’s “Uvda” screeds.

Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar must have been pleased.

Ironically, the event was cut short due to IDF and Home Front Command alerts about an imminent strike by the Islamic Republic. While Israelis spent the next several hours glued to the news waiting for air-raid sirens and running for shelter, Hamas was gearing up to officially nix the latest U.S.-mediated hostages-release proposal.

According to The Wall Street Journal, this one would have entailed the release of 900 Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons in exchange for 40 hostages; a partial IDF withdrawal from Gaza; the unrestricted return of Palestinians to the northern part of the Strip; and, at a later stage, a release of additional hostages following a full removal of Israeli troops.

Perhaps Dayan can follow up with the incognito “negotiators” and find out what “creative” alternatives they suggest. She doesn’t have to bother asking Argaman; it’s clear he’s paving a career path in politics.

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