Rather than demand an apology, the Israeli peace camp needs to send Moshe "Bogie" Ya'alon a large bouquet of flowers. The videotaped appearance of the vice premier before a group of Feiglinites last week is worth its weight in gold. His statements are straight-from-the-source, first-hand proof of the decisive role the senior military echelon has played in thwarting the peace process.
When he was chief of the General Staff, Ya'alon bragged of how he would often say in closed forums that, "every time the politicians bring us the dove of peace, we as an army need to clean up after it." Not only did Ya'alon acknowledge that while serving as the top military official in the country, he had denigrated elected officials in the presence of other men in uniform, but he also admitted that as one who had final say on all matters relating to the biggest and most powerful organization in the country, he "cleaned up" the bird droppings of peace.
Ya'alon thus confirms the chilling description offered by Prof. Shlomo Ben-Ami of how the Israel Defense Forces' top brass helped stoke the fires in the territories. In his book "Hazit lelo oref" ("A Front Without a Rearguard"), the man who served as foreign minister and, by extension, was a member of the security cabinet during the outbreak of the second intifada, recalled how then-minister Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, who spearheaded efforts to reach a cease-fire, was left helpless and at the mercy of the policies implemented by the army's senior commanders.
Ben-Ami wrote of how goods that were specifically earmarked for the Palestinian population were held up at checkpoints; how bulldozers tore up greenhouses, gardens and orchards under the pretext of security; and how Palestinian rage mounted until it reached an unprecedented boiling point. He stated that the policy of collective punishment and the imposition of economic hardships - which did nothing to serve the nonmilitary echelon's efforts to forge a cease-fire - were the courses of action dictated by the military echelon, which at that point in time totally ignored the directives and aims of the political leadership.
Ya'alon would later label that policy as one that would be "seared into the minds" of the Palestinians. He claimed that the only way to deal with them was to teach them that violence does not pay. In order to drill this into their heads, he was not averse to starving children, liquidating moderate political leaders, erecting checkpoints, imposing closures and humiliating the populace.
Now it is clear that lurking behind the strategy advanced by Ya'alon and his fellow "cleaners" - one that threw the Oslo Accords into the dustbin of history - was a pure, right-wing ideology.
"From my standpoint," Ya'alon declared during his recent appearance before the lunatic fringe forum of the Likud, "Jews should live in all of the Land of Israel forever." In other words, the Palestinians need to get it into their minds finally that even after they wave the white flag, they will not be relieved of the punishment meted out by the settlers.
When these kind of officers reach the highest positions in the army, it is no wonder that the Palestinian peace camp is fighting for its life against Hamas. When peace activists are viewed by a former chief of staff as "viruses," nobody will stand in the way of the hilltop thugs in the territories controlled by the IDF. (At least one-third of the outposts were built during the period in which Ya'alon served as GOC Central Command, the military element that is considered the "sovereign" of the territories.) And yet, Bogie and his ilk are not the ones who bear the primary guilt. Indeed, as the Jewish saying goes, one should not blame an individual who is operating within a broken system.
During the 16 years that have elapsed since the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israel has yet to produce one political leader that is ready to risk confrontation with the most extremist of settlers, including those inhabiting the illegal outposts. Even Yitzhak Rabin could not summon the courage to evacuate the settlers of Hebron following the massacre at the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
Not only is the political echelon fearful of presenting a map which demarcates the state's permanent borders, but it also has abdicated its responsibility for determining the final route of the separation fence to the High Court of Justice, thus leaving a number of gaps throughout the barrier. To this day, senior army officers do not know whether the prime minister is really committed to freezing construction in settlements, or whether the politicians are once again winking one eye at the Americans while winking the other at the Yesha Council.
A chief of staff, like any other citizen, has political opinions. The late Rafael Eitan compared Arabs to drugged-up cockroaches, and Ehud Barak agreed to relinquish parts of Jerusalem. The problem starts when IDF officers enter a vacuum that the political echelon has left behind in the territories for the last 42 years. In this abandoned area a dangerous trend arises, whereby the political echelon allows the military leadership to dictate policy. Or, in Ya'alon's words, the army cleans up after the politicians. It would be interesting to hear how that sounds in Turkish.
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