Even when it seems that all the records for cynicism and chutzpah have been broken, another politician emerges to set a new one: Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz talks about compassion.
It is a little difficult to believe, but after donning his new socially oriented minister attire, Mofaz attacked Benjamin Netanyahu, claiming, "The matter of compassion is far from his heart."
Mofaz is close to compassion? There is no quality he lacked more, as chief of staff and as defense minister, than this essential one. If only he had been endowed with a bit of compassion, our relations with the Palestinians would already look different.
But this is not only a question of his attitude toward the Palestinians, but also his attitude toward the indirect victims of the defense and settlement budgets, which could have been channeled in part to purposes that stir much more compassion than another tank or apartheid road.
In the occupied territories, Mofaz has won a reputation as a particularly cruel minister. The Palestinians have never been pampered by Israel, but no previous defense minister has aroused so much anger and enmity. Perhaps in his view this is something to be proud of, and perhaps the Likud Central Committee will consider it a success, but Mofaz symbolizes the inhumane Israeli for the Palestinians.
An examination of his statements reveals that they contain no humane reference to the Palestinians and their suffering. He has almost always opposed proposals to ease the conditions of their lives, and the fate of the population under occupation has never been a consideration for him. While his predecessors paid lip service against collective punishment and the harming of innocent people, Mofaz also refrained from this little bit.
Some 1,705 Palestinians have been killed during the three years in which he has served as defense minister, six times more than the number of Israelis killed during the same period. Of these Palestinian fatalities, 372 were teenagers and children; Mofaz did not express sorrow over their killing, thus signaling to the army that there was nothing wrong with the killing, not even of children. He was one of the fathers of the system of targeted killings, and Israel has liquidated 191 Palestinians during his watch; 117 of them were the targets and the rest were passersby.
Mofaz has never been held accountable for these alarming numbers - we do not count Palestinians who are killed. But it is impossible to ignore these numbers when he comes to submit his candidacy for prime minister.
Mofaz tends to keep quiet. Not that he doesn't speak: He just says very little. He recites hollow slogans - "We'll strike at them" and "We'll break the terror." Several members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee once emerged from a meeting with him and claimed that his presentation was "an insult to one's intelligence."
Indeed, it is difficult to find even a hint of a new idea among his statements. He was dragged into the disengagement because of his dependence on Ariel Sharon, and one of the only original ideas he ever proposed was to leave the Israel Defense Forces deployed in Gaza after the disengagement. Mofaz wanted Gaza as a "bargaining chip," an idea that now sounds particularly ridiculous. If we had heeded his advice, more Israeli soldiers would continue to be killed every day for no reason.
Faithful to his outlook, which he only expressed recently, according to which there is no chance of an accord "in the current generation," he has almost completely abstained from meetings with Palestinians. He also did not explain what would change in the next generation to enable an accord.
Mofaz wanted to assassinate Arafat, or at least to expel him, but fortunately he did not fight for his stance, just as he has not fought for any other stance. Mofaz, as IDF chief of staff, regarded the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon as a disaster. Here, also, if we had listened to him, dozens of soldiers would continue to be killed in Lebanon. Someone should remember this. As one of the most political chief of staffs ever, he was even reprimanded by defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who himself is no moderate statesman or particularly enlightened. But Mofaz's shortsighted political doctrine, which is derived from the narrow world of an officer, is nothing compared to the cruel measures he has implemented.
For people like Mofaz, all means are justified in the battle against the Palestinians. Morality is a foreign term in his worldview. Under his leadership, the IDF parted with the last remnants of the moral countenance it still wore.
His attempt to now portray himself as a protector of the weak is no less infuriating. He supported almost all of the economic edicts and fought for the huge and bloated budgets of the defense establishment, including settlements, at the expense of subsidized medicine and welfare benefits. There is no minister who harms the weaker population more than a defense minister who is not prepared to make broad cutbacks in his budget. Thus, there has never been a minister as anti-societal as Mofaz.
It is difficult to know how this record will influence the Likud Central Committee. Perhaps they will love a minister who is cruel to the Palestinians, kills them without mercy, incarcerates them and turns their lives into hell. But even there they should at least ask: Mofaz and compassion? Is there a more ridiculous combination of words than this?
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