Israel's next generation of leaders are sharpening their knives. While Tzipi Livni continues to fade from the public arena and Benjamin Netanyahu is preoccupied with survival as his government founders and protests any prospect of hope, the next generation of Israeli politics has spoken. Two of the more prominent pretenders to the throne, Moshe Ya'alon of Likud and Shaul Mofaz of Kadima, have anointed themselves by force.
If this is what's in store for us, perhaps we'd be better off continuing to tread water in the shallows. Nor does the second line of Israeli politics give reason for hope. Its composition should be quite disconcerting and depressing to us all. The fact that both of these men headed the Israel Defense Forces for many years should disturb us no less.
Ya'alon revealed his innermost feelings, presenting himself as an extreme, dangerous and deluded right-winger with no connection to reality, devoid of all democratic thought.
The dairy farmer in sandals from Kibbutz Grofit, who for three years stood at the head of the IDF and is now the Vice Prime Minister, a member of the exalted security cabinet, did us a favor when he exposed his true colors. This man is, of course, in danger of being ousted from the political scene, deservedly so, but he may also one day become prime minister - a goal for which he strives with all his might.
His remarks to a gathering of the Likud's Jewish Leadership Knesset grouping signal a great and imminent danger. If his heart and his mouth are in sync, as is often said of him, then this man is likely to bring great disaster upon Israel, its relations with the United States and its neighbors, and its fragile democratic fabric on the domestic front. Nothing good will come out of a man who holds such views, a man who sees the world as he does.
Ya'alon's predecessor as chief of staff, Shaul Mofaz, is no less ambitious. This past weekend, we were informed of comments which also exposed his true character.
"I am the leading candidate for prime minister, unequivocally, and my chances are good, very good," Mofaz declared of himself in an interview to Maariv, in which he also listed his grandest public achievements thus far, even if they only exist in his mind: the liquidation of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the capture of the Karin A arms ship and Operation Defensive Shield.
The assassination of a religious leader confined to a wheelchair, a ridiculous operation that netted a creaky ship filled with antiquated arms and another operation involving mass killings - this is the balance sheet of which the candidate is so boastful. And what about civilian achievements? Ah, yes, even his years as transportation minister were, in his view, an achievement - except that he is the only one who actually views them this way.
In the interview, Mofaz labeled himself "a pragmatist and theoretician" in contrast with Livni. In his bizarre words, he is more experienced in politics and more moderate in his political views than Ya'alon. He is, of course, a more reasonable individual, but his worldview is as narrow as that of an ant, a worldview that has been shaped entirely by army barracks and operations that have sown fear and involved killing, operations he not only took part in but also commanded.
The ambition of these two men is of course as legitimate as can be. Yet the fact that they are indeed being touted as serious candidates for the next generation of this country's leadership ought to be sufficient cause for all of us to lose sleep at night. True, most countries around the world are now enduring a gray period, but those countries do not have to make the same kind of fateful decisions Israel is faced with. If we'd thought Israel sobered up from its years-long regime of officers, then the lofty status of these two men proves this isn't the case. Far from it.
There is no Barack Obama awaiting us from the back benches of our legislature, no promising individual with a civilian background is warming up on the sidelines. The void in the public civilian arena is once again calling for the former senior officers to take command, even after the IDF itself has been increasingly exposed as a problematic, dysfunctional organizational. Nonetheless, after the generals have dashed so many fruitless dreams and false hopes, they are once again front and center.
This is the source of Israel's future leadership. While the current generation of leaders failed in opening a new, courageous chapter of history; while it is leading us toward the brink of catastrophe; while it misses opportunity after opportunity in a country that has become more despised in the world; a dangerous, gray crop of officers are emerging as the leaders of tomorrow. Look at them, and look at us: Mofaz and Ya'alon are what we have to look forward to.
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