Text size

There is no need to wait for the Winograd Committee report to understand that the Israel Defense Forces are in distress. The senior command is good, but lacks brilliance. The junior command is promising, but has a low self-image. Some of the fighters are still enthusiastic, but some are despondent. The required means are not always available. There is insufficient creativity, there is insufficient determination, there is no spirit of excellence. Organization is overly bureaucratic, discipline is deficient. That is not how an army that is liable to find itself fighting a difficult war should look.

Since the failure in Lebanon, the IDF has been doing what the other organizations in the country have not. It has investigated itself, improved itself and accepted responsibility. While the prime minister who failed continues to lead an entire country and determine its fate, the head of the General Staff who failed resigned and has been replaced. There were a number of flaws in the investigations carried out after the war, but in the end they led to an important process of rehabilitation of capabilities and preparation for the future.

The combat units are training, the reserve units are awakening, the emergency warehouses are filling up. At a time when the Israeli government continues to behave cynically and irresponsibly, the IDF is doing its best to return to its basic values and basic strengths; it is trying to rehabilitate itself.

But the IDF cannot stand alone in this mission. Without the support of civil society, IDF 2007 cannot return to the spirit of IDF 1967. Without close cooperation with the Israeli home front, the army cannot transform itself from beaten and bruised to proud and victorious.

The reason for that is simple: It is not the IDF that is responsible for the ills that gripped it. It is not the IDF that is responsible for the fact that for the past 40 years its primary mission has been occupation, and that for 20 years the state has been denying it its best sons and most of its resources. It is not the IDF that is responsible for the fact that diplomatic folly and political rifts have eroded it; that the right has exploited it and the left has attacked it; that Tel Aviv's hedonism has withdrawn from it.

It is not the IDF that is responsible for the fact that an escapist Israeli society expects the army to protect it from the historical reality in which it finds itself, without placing at its disposal the material, human and conceptual means that will enable it to do so.

There is room for criticism of the IDF; without such criticism the most essential organization in the country will be unable to recover. But criticism has to be leveled within context. The context here is socio-cultural.

The new ethos of Israeli society is characterized by extreme individualism, rampant capitalism and nihilism. This ethos, which is totally divorced both from the Middle East and from the Zionist continuum, is destroying social solidarity and the sense of a common national fate, corrupting politics and causing the public to collapse. This ethos is preventing a people's army like the IDF from continuing to function properly.

So that now, when the IDF is beginning the difficult campaign of rehabilitation, Israeli society must lend a hand. It must once again examine the ethos that has caused its moral disintegration and the moral crisis of its army. Israeli society must understand that in this place it is impossible to survive without comprehending the importance of partnership and a spirit of recruitment to the cause.

It will no longer be possible to rely on the fact that the IDF will be an outstanding army if outstanding people do not serve in it. It will not be possible to live a life of hedonism and prosperity here without supporting the army that fights to defend all that. It will not be possible to carouse behind the broad shoulders of the IDF without strengthening those shoulders and standing behind them.

Israel's withdrawal from the IDF has been long, profound and far-reaching. The time has come to return.