Is Israel's military leadership leftist?
The candidates now under consideration to replace IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot are evidence of a dismal and dangerous truth: Today, the IDF General Staff is in open rebellion against the government and the citizens of Israel.
Consider the identities of two of the four the candidates to serve as the next chief of general staff. First, there is former deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan.
Golan has a record that bespeaks two character flaws which make his candidacy a scandal.
First, Golan has adopted the rhetoric and attitudes of antisemites.
On the eve of Yom Hashoah in April 2016, Golan gave a speech before Holocaust survivors in which he said that Israel was becoming Nazi Germany. In his infamous words, “If something frightens me in the memory of the Holocaust, it is identifying nauseating processes that unfolded in Europe generally and in Germany in particular back then, 70, 80 and 90 years ago, and finding evidence of them here, among us today.”
Golan’s speech was factually wrong. There is no evidence whatsoever that the Nazification of German society is repeating itself in Israel.
But it isn’t merely that he was wrong. The problem is that his statement was an antisemitic libel.
In drawing a comparison between Israeli society and Germany in the early 20th century, Golan was denying the Holocaust while demonizing Jews in a way that is indistinguishable from the antisemitic incitement carried out by Israel’s enemies. Indeed, according to the definition of antisemitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance that was endorsed by 31 countries including 24 EU member states, “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is a prime example of an antisemitic expression.
Just last month, the three major British Jewish newspapers took the extraordinary step of publishing the same editorial on their front pages to warn against the “existential threat to Jewish life” in Britain that a government led by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would pose. The papers were propelled to act after the Labour Party refused to adopt the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism.
And Golan – who gave a speech that Corbyn would sign onto – is vying for the position of IDF chief of general staff.
Golan’s statement, and the fact that he wasn’t sacked the next day, caused grave damage to Israel’s ability to fight antisemitism. The fact that his fellow generals are standing as one, defending his candidacy for the top job, reinforces the damage. If he receives the appointment, his leadership of the IDF will cripple Israel’s ability to fight antisemitism.
That brings us to Golan’s second character flaw which disqualifies him from serving as chief of general staff. The most sympathetic interpretation one can give to his wretched speech is that he idiotically chose to employ antisemitic hyperbole to spice up his already unacceptable foray into politics. At worst, Golan showed that he is a bigot who scorns the people of Israel and their elected leaders. Either way, Golan demonstrated that he knows less about democracy than the average third grader and cannot competently operate in a system of government governed by the people’s representatives.
If Golan was the only candidate who failed basic civics, it would be reason enough for concern. But he isn’t. Former Operations Directorate commander Nitzan Alon is also on the short list for chief of general staff.
Alon has a long record of politicizing his role as a field commander to suit his radical politics. And even worse, he has an open record of repeated subversion of the government.
DURING HIS tour of duty as division commander in Judea and Samaria and his stint as commander of Central Command, Alon built up a record of political agitation that involved demonizing the Israeli Jews who live in communities in Judea and Samaria and making light of the security threat emanating from the Palestinian Authority and from Hamas and PLO terrorist groups.
In March 2011, Palestinian terrorists affiliated with the PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine infiltrated the community of Itamar in Samaria and massacred Ehud and Ruth Fogel and their children Hadas, Yoav and Elad. The terrorists, Amjad Awad and Hakim Awad, murdered the five Fogels in their beds, stabbing the parents and their children in the chests and nearly decapitating three-month-old Hadas.
Alon told the media that the slaughter was provoked by “price tag” incidents – acts of vandalism carried out by Israeli delinquents. In other words, moral responsibility for what Alon reportedly mischaracterized as “the shooting incident” really fell upon the Fogels’ neighbors in Itamar.
Alon’s underestimation of the Palestinians’ terrorist intentions wasn’t a one-time failing. Two weeks later he repeated it, when he made light of the fact that Palestinian security forces deliberately shot and murdered yeshiva student Ben-Yosef Livnat as he and his fellow students left Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, where they had come to pray. Alon compared the gunmen to IDF soldiers, saying that Israeli troops would have acted the same way in a parallel situation.
Then-head of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria Dani Dayan called Alon’s statement “defamation” of IDF soldiers.
“IDF soldiers do not empty magazines on unarmed civilians who do not endanger them as they exit a place of worship,” Dayan said.
“Livnat’s murder was premeditated… Fine, you want to libel the settlers, but slandering IDF soldiers to whitewash Palestinian crimes? That’s a severe moral failing,” Dayan concluded.
Alon’s penchants for minimizing the threat posed by Palestinian terrorists and exaggerating the threat posed by Israeli Jews are a function of a more general contempt, not only for his fellow Israelis, but for the state.
Both during his tenure as Judea and Samaria Division commander and as commander of Central Command, Alon openly defied government policy in a manner that caused grave damage to the government’s capacity to implement policy and advance Israel’s national interests.
In 2011, Alon gave an interview to The New York Times in which he spoke out against both the policies of Israel’s government and the pro-Israel policies of the US Congress.
Like today, in 2011, the government argued that the chief lesson of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza is that it mustn’t be repeated in Judea and Samaria. Israel withdrew its citizens and military forces from Gaza in 2005, and in less than two years, Gaza became a terrorist state ruled by Hamas.
In his interview with the Times, Alon disputed the government’s position. In his words, Israel should learn the lessons of Gaza, “but not cut and paste” them to Judea and Samaria. He then quoted B.H. Liddell-Hart’s characterization of truth as a “spiral staircase.”
“What looks true on one level may not be true on the higher level,” he said.
As to Congress, in 2011, in response to the PA’s application for UN membership, in accordance with US law, senior members of Congress were seeking to cut off US funding to the PA. The government supported the congressional initiative.
Alon attacked the congressional initiative to enforce US law.
“STABILITY IN the region includes the ability of the Palestinian Authority to pay its salaries,” he said.
“Reducing the Palestinians’ ability to pay decreases security. American aid is relevant to this issue.”
As commander of Central Command, Alon again spoke out openly against the government. In 2013, then-secretary of state John Kerry was shuttling back and forth between Jerusalem and Washington, trying to coerce the government to accept former president Barack Obama’s parameters for an Israel-PLO agreement. Those included an Israeli agreement to withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines – something that the government rejected.
Speaking to foreign reporters, Alon warned that the security situation would take a turn for the worse if Kerry’s efforts to secure a deal failed.
Since Kerry’s deal hinged on Israel accepting policies the electorate and the government rejected, Alon’s statement was an indictment of both.
And yet, despite his record of political subversion and open hostility toward Israeli civilians, like Golan, Alon is in the running for the top IDF job.
The fact that either officer is under consideration is a function of a far broader affliction within the top echelon of the IDF. Specifically, with each passing month the General Staff’s willingness to openly defy the government grows.
On Sunday, Hadashot News revealed that a “senior security official” warned against the Trump administration’s reported intention to defund UNRWA. The unnamed general said that if implemented, the move would destabilize the security situation.
President Donald Trump reportedly is poised to adopt a policy that reduces the number of so-called “Palestine refugees” by 90%, from five million to 500,000 to reflect the fact that under international law, refugee status is not hereditary. The US similarly reportedly intends to end all US funding for UNRWA activities in Judea and Samaria.
Reasonably, the government has heralded the reports. UNRWA was formed to prevent the resettlement of Arabs who left Israel during the pan-Arab invasion of the nascent Jewish state in 1948-1949. As such, UNRWA has arguably done more to prevent a resolution of the Arab-Israel conflict than any other single actor. Its operations are predicated on the view that Israel should be annihilated both physically and demographically through the open immigration of millions of hostile, foreign-born Arabs whom UNRWA have indoctrinated for 70 years to hate Israel and seek its destruction.
UNRWA facilities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, like its facilities in Lebanon, have been used openly as terrorist bases. Its personnel overwhelmingly support terrorist groups including Hamas, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and Fatah. It is unquestionably in Israel’s interest to see the organization shut down and the fake refugees it has cultivated for four generations finally given the rights of all other refugee groups and resettled permanently.
And yet, despite this, the IDF opposes this move in defiance not only of the government, but in contempt of the Trump administration.
This is not surprising. After all, “senior military officials” also warned that moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem would destabilize the security situation.
The candidacy of Golan and Alon for chief of General Staff, along with the military’s open subversion of the government and the US administration, need to serve as an urgent warning to the government. The time has come to finally clean house in the General Staff. If this requires bringing in a retired general to take over or promoting more junior generals to lead, then so be it.
The General Staff’s actions to undermine the moral standing of the country while subverting the government – and the US government – have gone too far. It is time for the government to stand up to the generals and defend Israel’s democracy and national honor against its radicalized General Staff.