"I don't want talented, smart or responsible generals. I want generals who are lucky." That was Napoleon's wish, and nothing can fulfill it like the situation in Israel. But Napoleon was referring to generals who took part in wars, not those who had the good fortune of not taking part in an unsuccessful war.
The aren't any games of chance happening now, with the round of general staff appointments that opened this week. Yitzhak Rabin would not have dreamed about the premiership had his name been associated with the Yom Kippur War. Fortunately for him, he had just returned to Israel from a highly successful ambassadorship. Mordechai Gur also returned and parachuted into the chief of staff's post after the terrible war that buried natural candidates for the job. Aharon Yariv thanked God - I heard it with my own ears - that he had resigned from Military Intelligence a year before the earthquake and was not buried with his comrades who took part in the failure. And Moshe Dayan was first the prince of high tides and eventually the prince of low tides - in 1967 he was lucky, in 1973 he was unlucky.
In the Second Lebanon War quite a few participants lost out and only a few came out ahead. One such "winner" was Ariel Sharon, who was not hurt by the latest war that got mired in the mud; he didn't have to hear that song again about soldiers coming back in boxes. Another winner was Benny Gantz, who had left Northern Command six months earlier, and Gadi Eizenkot, who was appointed to the post after the war. Yoav Gallant was a winner twice: first when he was posted to the south rather than the north, and later when he was in charge of Operation Cast Lead, which was meant to rehabilitate the Israel Defense Forces on the ruins of Gaza.
And the grand prize goes to ... Ehud Barak, who on the broken backs of Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz and Dan Halutz returned as a savior to capture the Defense Ministry. And this week too, at a memorial service for the dead of that war, he rubbed salt in the wounds.
Who will be promoted and who will be shortchanged, who will agree to wait and who will resign in fury - not necessarily those who succeeded, but those who avoided failure by the skin of their teeth? We no longer ask where you were in the last war, bro, but how you were lucky enough not to be in it. More luck than brains.
After all, you can't really believe that with a different cast of characters our luck would have changed and the wheel of fortune would have suddenly turned into a life raft. Anyone deciding to embark on such a war on that bitter day, with those hasty military objectives and with the army at such a low point, would not have returned in once piece. Even former chiefs of staff Shaul Mofaz and Moshe Ya'alon - two lucky generals a la Bonaparte - would have returned with their hands on their heads, and from then on, we could only hope, would have stopped seeing themselves as natural successors. Wasn't it they who for years prepared the IDF for the test that exposed its defects?
This week we finally won. We saw two national teams, one that always gets onto the court with great fanfare and emerges small, petty and conflicted, and one that gets onto the court with little fanfare and emerges great. Even Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich reconciled for the sake of the common challenge and defeated Russia, and that's only sports, not a matter of life and death.
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