Ever since July 2000 I have had serious doubts regarding the tendency to worship at the altar of diplomatic research institutes. This began during the Camp David Summit, when then- Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization Yasser Arafat and his chief negotiator Mahmoud Abbas evaded then-prime minister Ehud Barak's Peace proposal, which went as far as to include the division of Jerusalem.
Immediately following the unsuccessful summit, numerous self-appointed experts came out with claims that the Israeli team was ill-prepared for the negotiations – there were no papers compiled by official research institutions. This is nonsense, since the summit was attended by such figures as Shlomo Ben Ami and Dan Meridor and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak and Elyakim Rubenstein and Yossi Ginosar, who knew by heart every Palestinian, American and Middle Eastern burp that came out, not to mention official documents. They did not need any preparation. But some people, who found it hard to accept that the negotiations failed because the Palestinian partner was unwilling, resorted to this idea as a form of political asylum, faulting Israel's groundwork for the summit.
Obviously Israel needs top research institutions in order to understand developments within the Middle East, and also within itself. But after each failed military operation suddenly magic cures and elixirs surface, as though we need yet another research institute. This is a mirage. All it really does is create more jobs for the same people.
Uzi Dayan was Deputy Chief of Staff before heading Israel's National Security Council (NSC). Giora Eiland followed the same route. So did Prof. Uzi Arad. Amos Yadlin was Head of Israel's Intelligence Directorate (Aman). Now he is the head of Israel's Institute for National Security (INSS). It is all a game of rotating chairs among a fixed group of experts. Practically all of them are excellent at what they do, but the growing inflation of these institutions obscures the view of the current situation, instead of clarifying it.
The IDF already has an enormous research institute – Aman (Military Intelligence). There is also a (possibly powerless?) research branch within the Defense Ministry. The Mossad has its own intelligence assessments, as does the Israel Security Agency. There is a Strategic Affairs Ministry, established merely to satisfy a coalition negotiations promise, which will close down once a new position is found for Likud MK Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon. There is also an abundance of experts in every research institution and university.
Prof. Dan Patinkin, the star of the Hebrew University's Department of Economics, once explained the Law of Diminishing Returns. Imagine a field of tomatoes, he said during one of his classes. When they ripen, the owner of the field hires more workers to speed up the harvest. If he were to hire too many additional workers, their production value would diminish, since they would start crowding one another and stepping one each other's toes, while the carts of tomatoes would be stuck in traffic.
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss's latest report proves without prejudice that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not strictly adhere to the National Security Council's directives. He was wrong to allow himself to lose such an experienced and trusted adviser as Uzi Arad, who fell victim to a feud with Netanyahu's military secretary, Yohanan Locker, and to a strange investigation by the Israeli Security Agency. At the end of the day, if Netanyahu chooses to assign missions to Locker while excluding Arad, there is nothing anyone can do to prevent it.
Israel needs institutions like the National Security Council. It has several. Contrary to what many believe- it has too many.