The ousted chief of staff, Moshe Ya'alon, is starting a new chapter in the public arena as a prophet of doom. His remarks in interviews given at the time of his retirement are worrisome and distressing. Worrisome because of their content, distressing because of the problematic sense of judgment they offer.
Ya'alon warned that another war will break out with the Palestinians once the disengagement plan is implemented. Terror will be rampant, Qassam rockets will be fired and suicide attacks will return "wherever they possibly can." But this begs the question: What does he propose? What are the practical conclusions reached by the chief of staff after serving for the past three years? How does he translate his assessment of the situation into policy recommendations? Here Ya'alon keeps mum. He mumbles something about the "narrative," and the importance of presenting the pullout from Gaza as "a choice and not an escape."
With all due respect, this is evading the issue. Does he believe that remaining in Netzarim or Gush Katif would prevent or delay the next war? Or perhaps it would actually hasten its arrival? Is he prepared to send a battalion or two to defend the settlers who would remain there? Ya'alon does not give the answers, even though his position on this is important, since politicians such as Benjamin Netanyahu are quoting his warnings so as to justify their opposition to the disengagement.
It appears that Ya'alon is trying to be nice to everyone. To sound like Uzi Landau without wearing an orange ribbon. Both to warn of the dangers of disengagement, and to accept it as a fait accompli. He is satisfied to place the responsibility on the shoulders of those who fired him and on his successor.
The prime minister and defense minister claim the outgoing chief of staff at no time gave vent to his warnings in discussions with them. They have an obvious interest, and the truth will become clear only when the protocols are published. What is known now is that Ya'alon continuously recommended to the political leadership to alleviate the plight of the Palestinians. Time and again he called for strengthening Mahmoud Abbas, for freeing veteran Palestinian prisoners "with blood on their hands," for making concessions.
Now it transpires that his recommendations were antithetical to his assessments. In Ya'alon's view, dividing the land between two states is a recipe for disaster, for an explosion, for instability. The supposedly moderate Abbas would like to return to the houses and villages of pre-1948. If that is so, the chief of staff should have recommended that he be liquidated or his position weakened rather than strengthened. Abbas represents the two-state solution; and if he is a conniver who is working toward the destruction of Israel, why should he be helped?
Ya'alon's worldview is complex. Both right and left. He sounds exactly like Ariel Sharon and Netanyahu when he talks about the unremitting hatred of the Arabs, about their unquenchable thirst for concessions and withdrawals, about their constant threats of war the moment Israel says "no." Hiding behind the cover of the warning that "it is not relevant," he actually exhorts to the old solution of "Jordan is Palestine." At the same time, his proposals for action are reminiscent of those of his great adversary Shimon Peres. To embrace, to strengthen, to alleviate. And he actually takes pride in his close ties with his Jordanian colleagues.
How simple it is to be a chief of staff in a military world where all you have to say is "yes, sir," and where you do not have to convince anyone of the justice of your position, or even its internal logic. What a joy to be a lieutenant general in a country that adores soldiers and military ranks. Ya'alon will find out soon enough, though, that it is much more difficult in civilian life. That one has to compromise and reach agreement, and that often the line between two points is crooked. Perhaps then he will comprehend that an image of honesty and sincerity is not enough if behind it lies tremendous confusion.
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