Gaza flareup post-mortem shows an Israeli military that is happy to act as a corporate entity and view the death and suffering of regular Israelis as acceptable outcomes in its risk-reward analysis
In late May of 1967, a group of IDF generals barged into the late Prime Minister’s Levi Eshkol’s office and told him that if he did not order a massive preemptive strike on Egyptian airfields followed by an armored column blitz to retake the Sinai Peninsula (briefly occupied by Israel in 1956), they would not be able to answer for Israel’s security and indeed survival. Eshkol ordered the preemptive strike, giving rise to a conflict so victorious for Israel that it is still studied in every military academy: the Six Day War. During that war, Israeli field commanders from Jerusalem to the Golan Heights took initiative, pressed their advantage and in many cases asked the politicians’ blessing only after they had completed a successful military operation.
The 1973 Yom Kippur War started with a number of disastrous disadvantages for Israel brought upon it by both overly cautious politicians and over-confident generals. But when the war was in full swing, Israeli commanders on both the northern and southern fronts took initiative, acted boldly, and within a few days managed to take the fight into enemy territory, delivering a brilliant and complete military victory.
Since then, every new conflict showcases a new generation of Israeli generals, a generation that is ever more concerned with its post-military career in business and in politics than with winning battles. These generals more often than not recommend to their political bosses coming to terms with the enemy rather than routing him; they manage conflicts instead of winning battles, they see themselves as executives rather than military officers.
In the latest round of open warfare in Gaza, it was, once again, the IDF top brass headed by the new Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, that recommended to the cabinet to seek an accommodation with the terrorist factions, rather than offering up a plan to defeat them. They had depleted their “high quality target bank” and now any further attacks by remotely launched munitions would be ineffective, while a ground maneuver would be costly and undesirable. The IDF air-defenses boasted that they “maintained” their 86% interception rate and expressed sorrow that the remaining 14% of rockets launched from Gaza, some 100 of them, managed to kill four Israeli civilians. To the generals, it was a job well done.
Gone is the lust for battle, the imperative to win that was so characteristic of the IDF in the past and even when I served in the early 1980’s. We don’t even pretend to want to win by knock-out anymore. Fighting the enemy to a draw on points is all that the IDF is interested in doing these days, an attitude for which Israeli civilians are paying a heavy price. What is particularly disgusting is that once, when it came to security matters at least, all Israelis were in the same boat. Today, just like in America, Israel has split into two distinct classes: the protected elites and the exposed plebeians. The IDF, like any sector of Israeli society and perhaps even more so, is led by the protected classes. Its generals who get, even while in uniform, very nice compensation packages with many perks, cannot wait until, in civilian life, they can “parachute” into the corner offices of pre-IPO startups or major government-owned corporations and start building their base of political support for their all but inevitable run for the Knesset and a seat at the government table.
What they don’t need in their carefully laid out plans for a glorious future spent in positions of wealth and power is a mistake. None of them wants to be the one arguing for a daring ground raid in which God knows what may happen. God forbid a soldier or his remains will fall into enemy hands, necessitating a response with massed and indiscriminate fire in which Arab civilians will be photogenically blown to pieces just in time for evening news in Europe and every hour on the hour reporting in the American cable networks. Such a disaster may relegate a general to a dreary desk job somewhere, forever putting the calabash on his dreams of a villa in Ra’anana and monthly trips abroad all expenses paid, first class, of course.
It has been revealed that the current cease-fire resulted in going back to the same understandings on fishing zone and other items that existed beforehand, but this is the trivial part of the story. The bigger part is the half-billion dollar (!) payment that was just announced by Qatar, to be split, in as yet unpublished proportions, between Gaza and Judea and Samaria. There can be little doubt that this huge sum is payment by Iran via its Qatari paymasters. Payment for services rendered. And what were these services? Beyond killing and terrorizing Jews in their homes and homeland, always a worthy cause as far as Iran is concerned, the latest Gaza conflict revealed significant shortcomings in the Israeli air defenses, an invaluable intelligence for the Iranians and their Hezbollah attack dogs, easily worth half a billion petro-dollars.
Israeli PM Netanyahu is clearly uncomfortable with having followed his generals’ recommendation to accept the cease fire. In a statement released yesterday, he opined that this round was not finished, only “suspended”. With his keen political instincts, and honestly they do not need to be that keen when every online poll shows the vast majority of Israelis opposed to the cease fire, Netanyahu knows that the recently renewed mandate he had received from the Israeli people depends on him exacting revenge on their behalf and doing a far better job to guarantee their safety. By June 1st, the Independence Day celebrations will be over, Eurovision will fade into the rear view mirror and the Israeli summer heat will begin in earnest, blending once again with the heat of engine exhaust from tanks and fighter jets.
It was just announced that the Israeli Air Force will dedicate its annual Independence Day flyover to the long suffering residents of the Gaza Envelope. I could be mistaken, but I suspect that they and their neighbors from Ashkelon and Ashdod have had their fill of “gestures” and “expressions of solidarity”. They want the most powerful military in the Middle East to deliver to them safety, security, and a life free of fear whatever the cost to the generals’ careers. And they richly deserve it, too.