Ever since 1977, when Menachem Begin’s Likud swept into power in what the stunned media termed “the revolution,” the political right in Israel has been good at winning elections, but terrible at implementing its agenda.
The problem is that the left, for all its fealty to democracy, has refused to accept the principle of majority rule. It continues to wield power through the courts, the prosecution, the media and the army, preventing government leaders from doing what they were elected to do.
It is in the context of this dissonance between right and left, between those who were elected to rule and those who are determined to stymie them, that we must view the recent statements and actions of the IDF deputy chief of staff and the state comptroller.
The deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, made the outrageous, obscene comparison between Israel, its army and citizenry, and the Nazis. The state comptroller, Justice Yosef Shapira, issued a report on Operation Protective Edge, the Gaza war of two summers ago, that said absolutely nothing of value. He pointed to the shortcomings of that war and what should be done to remedy them after the generals did the same. So what was the point?
The point, both in the case of Golan’s statements and Shapira’s report, was to strike a blow at the leadership of the country — to the delight and backing of all those who have not come to terms with the results of elections and the attempt to do things differently.
Of the two, Golan’s statement caused by far the most damage. This isn’t the first time his speak-first, think-later approach has gotten him into trouble. In the past, he criticized the American government for its actions on Syria, the Turkish government and its president Recep Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and others.
Some of the things he said were, undoubtedly, correct, but for a man in uniform to utter them was completely out of bounds.
His attempt to portray Israel of today as the Nazis of the 1930s and 1940s because of isolated incidents like the killing of a family in Duma and that of Muhammad Abu Hadir, a youth from Yerushalayim — two criminal acts that were roundly condemned and either have been or are being prosecuted with the full severity of the law — has done untold damage. Those abroad who have battled valiantly to defend Israel’s image against virulent anti-Semitism say that years of hard work have gone down the drain.
From now on, every IDF action against terrorism will be seen in the context of Golan’s sociological evaluation of Israeli society as being too quick to use force and mistreating the strangers in its midst.
Any criticism of Golan in the media was twisted by the left as being an attack on the army, an attempt to silence IDF officers, instead of a call to military men to stay out of politics (imagine the outrage on the left if a general called for the annexation of Yehudah and Shomron).
To be sure, the IDF, as a body, understands that it is subordinate to the political echelons. That’s how it works in a democracy: the army takes its orders from the elected leaders, not the other way around.
But there are still many in the IDF who disagree with their political superiors and feel comfortable expressing those views, publicly, even while in uniform.
This is a dangerous situation. This is a time when the political echelon must feel free to fight terrorism using all kosher means, in order to prevent a security deterioration. This is what the citizens of Israel voted for when they went to the polls last year.
But what the citizens are discovering, to their dismay, is that there are outside elements, including not a few generals, who are trying to dictate “red lines” that must not be crossed to the political echelons. Ethical lines, these elements would say, as if they have a monopoly on values and wisdom.
The state comptroller’s report was similarly an attempt to undermine the political leadership. What did it say? That the war was a failure? You didn’t need to be the state comptroller to figure that out. If a military operation that was forecast to last five or six days drags on for 51 days, and ends without any concrete achievements that can be used to force concessions from the enemy, it’s obvious that it wasn’t a stunning success.
But to the IDF’s credit, it must be said that its top brass didn’t try to cover up its failure to give a high enough priority to combatting the tunnel threat, and went to work right away to correct the problem.
The report was, therefore, unnecessary. And the speed with which many tried to compare it to the devastating Winograd report on the Second Lebanon War, which led to the resignation of the defense minister and IDF chief of staff, only goes to show that it was politically motivated. The people who cheered the report and leaked its contents to the media were out to undermine the elected leadership, to bring down a prime minister that the country had the chutzpah to elect.
It’s time for the left to accept the principles of democracy and allow a government that is elected by the right to rule in accordance with its mandate. All these efforts to undermine the leadership undermine national security and Israel’s image abroad.