Defense Minister Yoav Gallant spoke this morning at the funeral of former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit, who passed away this week after suffering a heart attack during a trip to Italy.
Gallant recounted, "There are people whom you meet early in your life, but the strong impression from that encounter and the personality you met stay with you for many years ahead. Such was my first meeting with Shabtai Shavit in 1980, when I was a young officer in the flotilla, and he was the head of the 'Caesarea' division in the Mossad. I remember well his thoughtful and responsible words, said, as always, in the characteristic calm demeanor, during the briefing for a joint operation of the Mossad, General Staff commando unit, and the flotilla."
The Defense Minister shared, "Over the years, our paths crossed several times. When Shabtai was the Deputy Head of the Mossad, the joint project of the Mossad and the flotilla known as 'Naaray Hachof' set out, and later, when he became the head of the Mossad and the flotilla operated under my command, we worked together to assist the Mossad in a series of daring operations.
"At every decision point and in every crucial moment, during operations and throughout them, we knew that a responsible, balanced, and confident hand was holding the helm. The Mossad personnel and the Shayetet fighters esteemed Shabtai as their commander and leader, always seeing him as a source of authority and stability, especially when the challenges were complex. Many of the citizens of Israel do not know, and perhaps will never know, the extent to which they owe a debt of gratitude to this extraordinary individual and his significant and enduring contributions to the security of the State of Israel."
"For decades, both during his service in the Mossad and afterward, Shabtai was a role model and an exemplary figure. Many senior figures in the Mossad, IDF generals, and major-generals in the military came to him seeking his valuable advice and his unique perspective. His long tenure as the head of the Mossad will be remembered significantly for his contributions to expanding and strengthening the covert relations between the Mossad, organizations, and both nearby and distant countries. The crowning achievement of this activity was, naturally, the relatively open part – his significant contribution and laying the foundations for the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan. Those who witnessed the Mossad's activities up close know that this was just a small part of the vast work carried out by the Mossad under his leadership."
"Here, at the gravesite of Shabtai Shavit, may his memory be blessed, during these turbulent days when the names of the Mossad, as well as the IDF and the Shin Bet, are being thrown around recklessly by irresponsible political figures, it is important that we remind ourselves, all of us, that the Mossad, the Shin Bet, and the IDF - the soldiers and commanders - are the tools that provide life to the State of Israel and its citizens. We must appreciate and salute the fighters of the Mossad and its leaders who risk their lives day after day, bearing the burden of making critical decisions related to important operations and the lives of those involved in them.
"Even in complex times, it is our duty to remember that we are one people, and our unity is a condition for our existence. Without partnership and unity among us, without respecting the opinions and perspectives of others, the common denominator that allows a small nation holding onto its homeland, in the heart of a hostile environment, to protect itself with strength and efficiency against those who seek its harm, will erode.
"Yet, as I look at the somber faces of many present here at the funeral of Shabtai, I am filled with hope and I know that with the many who unite and the many who support, despite the opposition, together, we will overcome the crises and succeed in facing the challenges for the sake of the State of Israel, for the sake of our future."