In this deeply personal exploration, Ami Ayalon concludes that the foundational myths Israelis tell themselves are at the root of their ongoing national security concerns. "If Israel becomes an Orwellian dystopia," Ayalon writes, "it won't be thanks to a handful of theologians dragging us into the dark past. The secular majority will lead us there motivated by fear and propelled by silence." Ayalon's journey growing up on a kibbutz before becoming a decorated commando, naval commander, intelligence chief and cabinet member traces the history of Israel, but his patriotic life also blinded him to the self-defeating nature of policies that have undermined Israel's civil society while heaping humiliation and hopelessness upon its Palestinian neighbors. Ayalon's compelling storytelling voice will grip readers, provide fresh perspectives, and offer hope for an enduring two-state solution.
Ayalon has come to realize that the sustainable and democratic Jewish homeland for which he repeatedly risked his life, and killed, can only be realized side-by-side with a Palestinian state whose citizens have genuine hope for their own bright future. As the head of Israel's security agency Shin Bet, he gained empathy for Israel's "enemy" and could prove with almost mathematical precision that when Israel carries out anti-terrorist operations in a political context of hopelessness, the Palestinian public supports violence, because they have nothing to lose. Researching and writing Friendly Fire, he sought input from Palestinians and Israelis whose experiences and insights differed from his own. "No matter what we do," Ayalon writes, "terrorism, like violent crime, will continue to plague our society and other Western-style democracies." But to demonize the other side and repeatedly label them unreliable partners is not a solution. Ayalon is a realist, not an idealist, and he has scant interest in offering apologies or regrets. He takes his readers on a journey of discovery that for many will be revelatory, and arrives at common sense conclusions that many who count themselves as Israel's staunchest supporters will regard as radical.