Why So Many Generals Veer to the Left

Ever wonder why retired IDF generals who enter politics almost always end up on the political left? The same holds true for former heads of the Mossad and Shin Bet. All told, nine IDF chiefs of staff, two Mossad heads and two Shin Bet heads joined political parties on the left or center upon their retirement (compared to only three chiefs of staff and one Shin Bet head who signed up with the right).

These are people like Uri Saguy, a former head of Military Intelligence, who led negotiations with Syria under then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak (another top general who went leftward) and was convinced that the best thing Israel could do for its security was to give the Syrian army control of the Golan Heights.

These aren’t stupid people. And no one questions their courage or commitment to Israel, having dedicated 30 to 40 years of their lives to the country’s security.

So what gives? Why are they so eager to make concessions to the enemy? Why are they so afraid to assert Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, the country’s eastern border, and over major settlement blocs in Yehudah and Shomron that will never be evacuated, under any agreement?

One explanation is that the generals, having seen the limits of power, have grown weary of fighting and “seen the light.” But Brig. Gen. (res.) Tzvika Fogel, one of the minority who identifies with the right, rejects this argument and resents the implication that he is a brute who lacks the intellectual capacity to understand the wisdom of conceding to the enemy as a more enlightened way of winning him over.

“One who loves Eretz Yisrael like me, and yearns for secure borders, is depicted as insane,” Fogel writes in a recent op-ed in Makor Rishon.

There are other theories that Fogel raises, and dismisses: High-ranking officers who reach the top are influenced by prime ministers from the left (this can’t be true since over the years, prime ministers have come from both left and right, mostly the right); these generals never really shook their secular-socialist education from the kibbutz of their youth (in the past three decades there have been practically no former kibbutznikim in the upper echelons of the army).

So what is the explanation? Three things, he suggests: Ego, money and standing. Fogel argues that since the mid-1950s, the left has made a concerted effort to lure senior security officials, “also via promises of a [brighter] economic future and via partnership in the political leadership.”

At issue, he says, is not an ideological rift. It’s not about those who want peace and those who don’t. Rather, it is a clash between those who believe in a Jewish country, of working the land dunam by dunam and marking the borders with Jewish settlement, and those who are being used as a fig leaf by the far left, the parties that are trying to “buy peace and quiet with money.”

Of course, no one knows whether his theory is better than anyone’s else. But beyond question is his courage in stating it. n