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The role of the Turkish army is anchored in the country's constitution. It - the military - and not the political establishment, neither politicians, nor public, is charged with safeguarding the secular constitution.

Hence, when it appears to the military command that political leaders are deviating from the constitutional path, the army steps in. Such intervention has sometimes ended in the suspension of civil rule and the coming to power of a military regime, sometimes "only" in the ousting of a too-religious prime minister, or even a blatant and broad hint to the government to cease internal bickering.

"This is the nature of Turkish democracy," a Turkish diplomatic said to Ha'aretz. "It suits us for now, because between you and me, which other organization in Turkey enjoys as much trust and loyalty as the army?" If anyone were to suggest that the situation in Israel was the same, that the army "kept watch" over the politicians and determined what was good for the people, he would be told, at best, that he was in dire need of mental health care.

After all, "there is a government in Israel," as Prime Minister Ariel has declared on more than one occasion - in the State of Israel, the army "belongs" to the government, not the other way round.

But why has the prime minister found it necessary to remind the army of its place, and so frequently too? Why does the defense minister always have to "come out in defense of the army?" Isn't it obvious the government decides and the army executes? It appears that the conflict between the Israel Defense Forces and a number of the politicians has intensified in particular over the past few months, during which the army has been allowed a freer rein and an open account so far as targets for elimination was concerned.

They were months in which the army appeared to fear for the freedom of expression it worked so hard to achieve. This freedom has already been stripped of the slogan "Let the IDF win," which can now be replaced with "Let the IDF fight" - an expression devoid of the obligation to win and the responsibility to produce results.

The most blatant example of this occurred on the eve of Yom Kippur, when the army decided to clear the area around the Termit outpost, using tanks to demolish homes, killing 10 Palestinians, including a 10-year-old boy, and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

The "incident" - such a misnomer in the Hebrew language - took place while, on the one hand, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat were busy striving toward some kind of agreement for continuing the process, and, on the other hand, a group of Palestinian terrorists was detonating an explosive device it had managed to get into the outpost through a tunnel, injuring three soldiers.

Peres informed Arafat that Israel would rebuild the outpost. The army, which for months had no idea of the tunnel, decided, so it appears, to exact revenge and not only to "clear the area." The prevailing view among the political echelon was that "the army's response [had been] too heavy-handed."

So what? A few days earlier, Amir Oren had reported here that the IDF viewed the Foreign Ministry, and the minister in particular, as saboteurs, as obstacles preventing the military from fulfilling its duties and overcoming Arafat.

For the IDF, the meeting between Peres and Arafat was itself tantamount to a terrorist act. When this is the attitude of the army, there is only one way to foil such a terror attack - by means of an appropriate IDF response that will prove that there are those who try to forge policy, and those who determine it.

Perhaps the army isn't like that at all, no doubt a thorough investigation of the incident would yield fitting operational explanations for each of the deaths, including that of the child. But an entire year of the intifada has seen the opening of only 150 investigations into the violation of orders, with the submission of just one indictment.

This makes difficult not to conclude the army has its own agenda and has no intentions of allowing the politicians to stop it from performing the duty with which it has been entrusted by the people.

In such a situation, it is no wonder that the prime minister has been too frequently called on to remind the army of its place; and perhaps it would be a good idea for him to slightly alter his declaration. Instead of saying there is a government in Israel, it would be more pertinent were he to remind the army there is only one government in Israel.