Descriptions in yesterday's newspapers of Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon as stupid miss the mark. Anyone who has head Ya'alon analyze diplomatic and security issues cannot come away with this impression, even if one disagrees with his conclusions.
Ya'alon's problem is his inability to evaluate complex media situations, to know ahead of time what to leak and how it will be interpreted later. The former Military Intelligence chief and Israel Defense Forces chief of staff does not know how to tell that someone has a use for leaking a story, just as happened Wednesday when it was convenient for Jewish Leadership Movement head Moshe Feiglin's people to give the tape of Ya'alon's comments to Channel 2 in order to goad Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Only two years ago, at a pre-military preparatory program, Ya'alon attacked former prime minister Ehud Olmert and former chief of staff Dan Halutz. But the precedents for this go back further.
As early as 1989, as commander of the Paratroop Brigade, he sparked a storm when he stated in the Kibbutz Movement's magazine(!) that the military-farming Nahal Brigade had outlived its usefulness.
In 2002, when he was appointed chief of staff, he hit bumps in the road almost weekly. Six weeks after he was appointed, Ya'alon appeared before a national conference of rabbis in Be'er Sheva. He told them that unilateral withdrawal would be surrendering to the enemy and that the threat of Palestinian terror was "cancerous." (Then cancer, now a virus; he seems to have a thing for medical terminology.)
As expected, the words of the new chief of staff drew headlines and raised hackles on the left. One officer who accompanied Ya'alon was given some friendly advice, "The next time you are with the chief at such an event, yell 'fire.' The results will be less disastrous than leaving him in alone in front of a microphone."
The chief of staff and supporters of draft-evasion
One of Feiglin's prominent supporters, who was seen at the event this week where Ya'alon spoke, is a familiar face to many IDF and police officers from the time of the disengagement from Gaza.
During the disengagement, the man had the custom of facing off against senior officers holding a baby or a toddler. "This baby," he told them at the settlement of Shirat Hayam, "will vanquish you. We will crush you like you crushed us ... Our children will be the majority. They will impose religious coercion on you and put you into reeducation camps."
One of the officers the Jewish Leadership activist threatened to send to the gulags served for some two years as Ya'alon's spokesman. Feiglin himself has called on soldiers on more than one occasion to refuse to evacuate settlements.
It was a bit strange to see Ya'alon in the film clip on Channel 2 the other night, a man who devoted more than 30 years to IDF service, feeling so comfortable among such vitriolic preachers of refusal of orders.
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