A tale of two servants

Tamir Pardo (right) being interviewed by Yoav Limor. Photo: Peter Haskin.

“YOU can succeed – or you can explain,” is the reality of life in the Mossad as expressed by former director Tamir Pardo at the Jewish National Fund (JNF) annual dinner last Sunday.

In front of the 1000-strong audience at Palladium at Crown, Pardo was interviewed on stage by Israeli journalist Yoav Limor. The discussion ranged from family sacrifices, the asset of women in the field and the changing face of terrorism.

“The Mossad is your first home, and the family, unfortunately, is paying the price,” said Pardo.

Sharing that he had missed the birth of his son while on a mission, he explained that without the support of family, it is impossible to survive in the job. “You don’t have any structure. You don’t know where you are going to be tomorrow, or if the day that you planned months in advance is going to take place,” he said. “And that’s life. If you can adjust yourself to that, okay. If not, find another job.”

Acceptance of instability is paired with resignation to a life of non-disclosure, he noted, revealing the cover story his son had invented for him throughout his years at school, the army and university: His father worked at a sausage factory.

Guests also heard from former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro who addressed the nature of the relationship between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. Appointed by Obama, Shapiro served as ambassador from 2011 until January this year.

While conceding that there is a perception among many that the two leaders “hated” each other, Shapiro said, “It wasn’t like that at all. Like any human relationship, it went through various stages – and the last two years were the toughest – but, for most of their time together it was much, much better than people think.”

Shapiro was present for every one of their 16 meetings.

“The vast majority of their interactions were friendly, cordial, professional and productive,” he reflected.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu knew that he could call President Obama in a crisis and get support – and he frequently did: Three times on the day of the Turkish flotilla, four times during Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012, and on many other occasions.”

Shapiro noted the two key areas of disagreement being the Iran nuclear deal, and the issue of West Bank settlements, both “somewhat vexing” he added, “because they both grew out of issues which on a strategic level, we had profound agreement”.

JNF Victoria president Helen Shardey deemed the event a resounding success.

“I am particularly excited to share that, from this year, JNF will be breaking new ground and is now also able to support benevolent relief projects. This means that in addition to our environmental core, we are also able to address key issues of poverty and distress, sickness and disability,” she said.