What Would Ya'alon Have Done?

If Ya'alon had been chief of staff over the last two months, or if his opinion had been taken into consideration, Israel might already be involved in a war with Syria, led by the same prime minister and defense minister whose conduct so disappointed Ya'alon during the crisis with Hezbollah.

Yanush Ben-Gal opposed the lousy conduct of the war in Lebanon. It was in 1982, and he considered the person responsible to be then-defense minister Ariel Sharon, who had removed Ben-Gal as GOC Northern Command - a position in which Ben-Gal joined the chief of staff, Rafael Eitan, in the operations in Lebanon, without government approval.

Sharon also recommended that Ben-Gal not be appointed chief of staff following Eitan, and Ben-Gal was a declared enemy of Sharon's for 15 years. Then Sharon, as infrastructure minister in 1997, invited him on a joint business trip to Russia prior to important testimony Ben-Gal was to give in the Sharon-Haaretz trial.

Afterward, Ben-Gal changed his mind; it was such a surprising change that the attorney general nearly indicted him.

Now Ben-Gal is attacking IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz. It's possible that in the future, under the right circumstances, he will also think differently about Halutz and Lebanon 2006.

Lieutenant General Moshe Ya'alon was absent from the generals' meeting with Halutz, where Ben-Gal repeated his publicized attacks. Former chief of staff Ya'alon had expressed his opinions beforehand, primarily in the United States - in conference calls with the Jewish right-wing, at a memorial event for Ze'ev Jabotinsky, and in articles and lectures in which he spoke out against the current leadership, against corruption, and a little bit against and a little bit in favor of the war.

A careful reading of his comments raises a worrying question: What would Ya'alon have done in Halutz's place?

It also leads to a calming conclusion: It's good that Ya'alon and Ben-Gal were not the ones who conducted the war.

The opportunity to oversee the disengagement from Gaza was snatched from Ya'alon last year. He condemned the pullout and its motives, and now wants renewed control over the Philadelphi route.

Since a man like him would not be untrue to himself and voluntarily lead an army to a disastrous operation, it appears that Ya'alon's main gripe is that his dismissal prevented him from resigning with a bang, as someone whose conscience does not allow him to take part in sin.

His position is confused on the Lebanon issue as well. Ya'alon opposes the deployment of a multinational force in southern Lebanon, and is calling for it to be limited to assisting the Lebanese army in other sectors. On the other hand, he also cites accomplishments: Hezbollah sustained 500 to 600 fatalities, the best of the best that Hezbollah had to offer, out of 1,000 who form the basis of the organization; it lost almost all of its long-range rockets; northern Israel held on; the durability of Israeli society has been proved; and what has been damaged has already been rebuilt.

Ya'alon did not just accept that the Israel Air Force should be strengthened at the expense of the ground forces, but presents himself as the harbinger of change.

"Over the last three years, I personally led the process of cutting forces in the compulsory service and reserves, a process that was possible as a result of the changes in threats and technological capabilities," he said. And Ya'alon himself, he was proud to note, strengthened the air force "due to its technological capabilities, including intelligence, generation of objectives, precise munition, etc.," but said he wanted to use the Infantry Corps and Paratroopers (but not tanks) against Hezbollah.

At the beginning of the operation in Lebanon, Ya'alon saw it as "an opportunity to come back from a strategy of withdrawal [and move] to an offensive strategy against radical Islam." As for the method, he said, there is no way to destroy from the air all 12,000 rockets that can be moved around, and the concept underlying the ground operation is the "suppression" of the launching, not the destruction of the rockets.

The way to put an end to the barrage of rockets, Ya'alon explained, is by exacting a price from Iran and Syria for the launching. The West must stop them, he wrote, and the Israel Defense Forces operations in Gaza and Lebanon are a first step in that direction.

Ya'alon primarily sought escalation on the Syrian front, and complained about Israeli policy during the war to calm down Syrian leader Bashar Assad. Ya'alon said in wonder: Calm him down? We have to frighten him, threaten him, and if necessary, carry out the threat. Assad, he added, "objectively" recognizes Israeli supremacy.

If Ya'alon had been chief of staff over the last two months, or if his opinion had been taken into consideration, Israel might already be involved in a war with Syria, led by the same prime minister and defense minister whose conduct so disappointed Ya'alon during the crisis with Hezbollah.