I won a bet recently over Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner. My friend said to me, "That lieutenant colonel is going to be booted from here to kingdom come." And I said, "He'll be suspended, so that he can stay on."
I won. Because nowadays, the chief of the General Staff doesn't run the Israel Defense Forces; it's run by the generals of Judea and Samaria - its activists and rabbis - and Eisner is one of their favorite sons.
The whack in our faces was so strong that we saw stars from the shock and didn't notice all the dust flying around. We didn't even notice that this Eisner, who so impressed us with his well-kept appearance and wonderful self-discipline radiating from his sweaty face - he, and no other, had been slated to become deputy commander of the IDF Officer's School, where he would have been responsible for instilling command spirit. Here was a display of IDF recruiters once again demonstrating their sharp evaluation skills.
And we didn't notice that it wasn't only Eisner who ran amok, shocking everyone with his assaults, as if a rifle were a broom that could also shoot if God wanted it to; his soldiers watched and did the same. Thus did they fulfill the order of "After me," and "Engage the enemy."
We didn't notice those "operational and command failures" that do not meet the standard of combat doctrine and battle heritage of the Israel Police Forces; our troops were not properly organized to meet the enemy; the number of bicyclists was not anticipated and our soldiers did not get help from Border Police forces more skilled at crowd dispersal. And above all were those unreliable army cameras; when the fighting got rough, right then "the batteries ran out." The IDF had a chance to triumph, but blew it.
To this day it isn't totally clear on what grounds this nasty piece of work was removed from his post, putting the whole settler community in turmoil. Was it for an "ethical failure," or an "operational failure" or simply for being too stupid to realize he was being photographed. After all, one can forgive a rifle smash in the face or make light of it, but what can be done about B'Tselem's footage? One is allowed to get in a good smack here and there, but for goodness' sake, not in front of the whole world; that's too much. Today, when everybody has a camera in his cell phone, every commander must see himself as if he's in the middle of a soccer stadium or on stage in the theater.
If these failures had been revealed in the old IDF - the one that was, but is no more - that would be one thing. But no: these scandals are being uncovered now, in the new and improved IDF that underwent a thorough rehabilitation after the Second Lebanon War. This is the same IDF that had already proven its enhanced capabilities during Operation Cast Lead, the Mavi Marmara incident, the Harpaz case of General Staff intrigue, and the inspection of lighting rigs before sending its soldiers on Independence Day to march on the mountain of death. Indeed, there has been a change and we can feel it, after too many years of the army resting on its laurels, and underneath them.
From this whole mess we recall one particularly painful moment, painful for all of us, that featured the marauder's little finger: "Did the general understand the significance of an anarchist breaking the hand of an IDF lieutenant colonel?" asked Eisner accusingly.
His finger may have been broken, but he wanted the whole hand, bandaged and hanging in a sling on his chest, like a medal. Now it's not only the daring who get medals but also the false victims. The closer the state comptroller's report on the Harpaz affair gets, the wider the circle of honor becomes. And the not-so-English patient is left in the field, bleeding.
We shall soon see fighter jets flying over the area where the bicycles crashed, and soaring onward. "The IDF is ready to act against Iran as soon as we're called upon," said Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz, in a number of exclusive, pre-Independence Day interviews.
Between Migron and Ulpana, the defense minister and the strategic affairs minister, and the good and businesslike atmosphere that prevails among the decision-makers, preparations for the operation of the century have been completed. The rehabilitated IDF will get up and extend its long arm. And before the next Independence Day, it will round the number of casualties upward.
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