The wise men of nuclear Chelm
Only in Israel can the effort to get the IDF Chief of Staff to resign be spearheaded by none other than the army's very own radio service.
Deputy Prime Minister and Strategic Threats Minister Avigdor Lieberman has desisted recently from his habit of describing life in Israel as "paradise," but Greek mythology tells of an almost equally good and pleasant place: Arcadia. In the Israeli version of this utopian land, a single party, Arcadima, will rule, and all of the citizens will receive a vacation from Katyushas and Qassams as well as free entry to the capital soccer team's games. This is the dream. The reality is the town of gullible fools, Chelm, but a Chelm with nuclear weapons - according to foreign publications, of course.
In the American investigation of the hitches of September 11, 2001 and the war in Iraq, the administration, intelligence and defense systems were examined. The number of office-holders who have prematurely ended their terms in office is nearly zero. In Israel, which is looking back at Lebanon at a time when its eyes should be glued to Iran ahead, the investigations are throwing one spanner into the works inside the army and another between it and the governmental level. The Israel Defense Forces' alacrity in appointing investigators and thrashing out its findings was aimed at learning so they could improve and silence criticism. However, there is no silencing, but rather paralysis. More than half of the time available to those at the brigade commander level and up has been devoted to investigations for two months now, and military heads are beginning to roll, while at the governmental level, everything is moving along at a snail's pace.
The Winograd Committee, or the state commission of inquiry if it is established on its ruins by a High Court of Justice order, has two possible lanes - the fast green lane at customs if there is nothing to declare (and, in this case, nothing to warn), or the slow red lane. If it makes use of Provision 15 of the Inquiry Commissions Law so that those who might be hurt are warned and confront one another in cross-examinations, the inquiry will complete its work in 2008 at the earliest. Without warnings there will also be no dismissals.
In the short term, the only people who will have resigned, either because they wanted to or were forced to, will be people in uniform. And in contrast to these individuals, who are asked to leave even if their one black spot can be swallowed up in a continuum of white, the politicians will refuse to go, and will argue that in the next elections, the citizens will weigh things up and vote according to their overall activity. Herein lies a real danger with the army's relationship with the government - a new version of the bitterness that came in droves from the IDF upon publication of the Agranat Commission report, which hurt the chief of staff, head of Military Intelligence, a GOC, and other officers while leaving the prime minister and defense minister unscathed. Yitzhak Rabin, the former chief of staff who had become a government minister, said at the time that the border of the decree between the echelons did not run along the paper separating those who are elected and those who are appointed. Both are supposed to share in the glory of successes and the responsibility for failures. Separating the echelons will poison the atmosphere and cause the leaders of the security establishment to avoid calculated risks in the budget and in the ability to absorb an initial strike.
Within the IDF, alongside justified and relevant criticism, there has been an influential group of career officers, both retired and on active duty, who have been guided by the settling of personal accounts, frustrations from the past, or ambitions for the future. Among them there are those who have always objected to any change, such as the suggestion by defense minister Ezer Weizman, based on Major General Yisrael Tal's proposal at the end of the 1970s, to establish a field forces command. Major General Avigdor (Yanush) Ben-Gal, who saw himself as the successor to chief of staff Rafael Eitan, convinced Eitan to thwart the plan, lest Tal be swiftly appointed chief of staff. The changes necessitated by preparing the ground army for war and a transition to a branch system were delayed, and now Ben-Gal, alongside generals who came from the Golani Brigade, are among Dan Halutz's most vociferous rivals.
The media onslaught against the chief of staff, with the help of these rivals, is being led by Army Radio, whose commander is close to Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Army Radio broadcasters' fronting of the movement to get rid of Halutz has not come via orders. There is no big plot here. But it is right on target with the commander's inclinations, in the name of freedom of expression. This same freedom makes it possible not to lead a similar campaign for the defense minister's resignation. Only in Israel.