INTO THE FRAY: Generals in Israeli politics: The pinnacle of perversity?

For your perusal, my latest INTO THE FRAY column:

Generals in Israeli politics: The pinnacle of perversity?

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As a rule, on entering Israeli politics, senior military and security figures have played a troubling role, which has—almost uniformly—proved disastrous, both for the country and/or for themselves.

It appears this week on the following sites (in alphabetical order):

ISRAELI FRONTLINE : (To be posted)

Several short excerpts:

“It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.” – Alice in Wonderland.

Little could have reflected the perversity of politics in Israel more than the ten minute prime-time interview with former Prime Minister and IDF chief-of-staff, Lt. Gen. (res.) Ehud Barak on Wednesday (January 16, 2019).

A noxious brew of duplicity and hypocrisy

It was a noxious brew of duplicity and hypocrisy, in which Barak launched into a blistering diatribe against the incumbent Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu—beginning with the wildly implausible accusation that he was somehow to blame for the recent scandal involving the head of the Israel Bar Association for allegedly accepting sexual favors in return for advancing judicial appointments…But apart from the gall of his toxic tirade against Netanyahu…there is the jarring hypocrisy of his recriminations.

For Israel’s enemies: Manna from heaven

Yet today, perhaps smarting under the insult of rejection by the public and his own political failure, Barak has embarked on an incendiary campaign to besmirch the elected government of the country—in which he himself served—that is pure manna from heaven for Israel’s most vehement detractors. …Indeed, Israel’s enemies need to do nothing more than to quote his venomous invective to prove their claims as to the nefarious nature of the brutal, corrupt, and racist “Zionist entity”.

Two categories of generals

Clockwise from top left: Mofaz; Yatom; Ayalon; Lipkin Shahak; Mitzna & Mordechai

… as a general rule, on entering Israeli politics, senior military and security figures have played a troubling role, which has—almost uniformly—proved disastrous, both for the country and/or for themselves…Overall, there have been two categories of generals that have entered politics in Israel: (a) Those who have managed to attain the highest political office of Prime Minister—and wrought disaster on the nation; and (b) those who did not—and were chewn up, and ignominiously spewed out of the political system—often with their reputations mauled.

Disastrously detrimental role

With regard to the former category—those ex-generals who have become prime minister—the record is, without exception, dismal. From Yitzhak Rabin through Ariel Sharon to Ehud Barak, each and everyone has left a dismaying heritage of disaster…

Generals galore

Thus without exception, all these generals-turned-prime ministers have facilitated the transformation of what were troublesome terrorist nuisances into grave strategic threats…Yet despite this depressing record, generals still appear to be “flavor of the month” in the upcoming election. More than ever, top military figures are crowding into the 2019 race for the Knesset…

Positions, not principles; Egos, not ideologies

Lt. Gen (res.) Benny Gantz, Israeli Resilience

Sadly, therefore, it appears that the upcoming elections will not be a battle of ideas, ideals and ideologies but of egos, not a struggle to advance principles, but to attain positions. And when position is the overriding goal, principles are jettisoned along the wayside. This has been a recurring phenomenon with generals-turned-politicians…Thus, Rabin—against his better judgement—capitulated to the pressures of the Left-wing party to adopt the Oslo Accords; Sharon sacrificed Gaza—despite articulating precisely what the results would be—in the hope of appeasing the Left-leaning legal establishment regarding charges of malfeasance on his part; and Barak caved into pressures from Left-leaning civil society protest groups to abandon South Lebanon to Hezbollah.

Misplaced anti-Bibi hysteria

Israeli Prime Minster Netanyahu with Brazilian President Bolsonaro

In this regard, I am far from an uncritical apologist for Netanyahu. Indeed, I have, in the past, even called for his resignation. However, it is undeniable that in many ways, he has been a truly transformative leader…Under his stewardship, Israel has become one of the best performing economies in the world…He drastically reduced Palestinian terror from the horrific levels he “inherited” from the Rabin-Peres..In terms of foreign policy, he has produced remarkable success. His views on Iran and its perilous nuclear ambitions have been embraced by the Trump administration. He has managed to initiate far-reaching changes in Middle East politics, with increasingly amicable—albeit, as yet, only semi-overt—relations with important Arab states, inconceivable several years ago…He has overseen Israel’s “pivot” eastwards…

A whole different skill set

Whether any former high-ranking successor could match this performance is, of course, not impossible, but is certainly open to question. After all, while our senior military officers deserve great credit for their years of sacrifice, devotion and daring, civilian leadership calls for a substantially different skill set from military command.

Indeed, as I once said, a good many years ago, in a rather heated exchange with a former IDF chief-of-staff:

  • The ability to command is no guarantee of the ability to lead;
  • Physical courage is no guarantee of moral courage; and
  • Bluntness is no guarantee of integrity

The voters will do well to bear this in mind!

As usual your talkbacks/comments/critiques welcome,
Best wishes,

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