The Defense Ministry has introduced austerity measures. From now on, paper should be recycled by photocopying on both sides. It's a fine initiative by the administration, meant to save paper in the ministry's hour of need. One of the workers said he would have complimented the senior officials for their victory over the waste except he couldn't find them - they're either overseas or traveling in two expensive armored Mercedes on inspection trips along the route of the separation fence. The worker sighed and said it wasn't so bad, he'd be happy to turn over the pages to help pay for the airplane tickets and the cars.
Credibility, like discipline, is indivisible. Despite external complaints, the Israel Defense Forces usually deserves high points for its operational credibility - sometimes it makes a mistake and misleads, but it is not a malicious recycler of lies. The public's faith is a vital asset for the army - so that orders are followed by conscripts and reservists who wonder what's behind the commander's orders - as well as for acquiring resources for the defense establishment, including salaries, pensions and various benefits for serving soldiers. When the chief of staff and defense minister erode that trust, in their deeds and failures, they are directly responsible for the skepticism that greets their cries about the meaning of a sharp cut in the defense budget.
Not everything is money. An example of the hypocrisy of the heads of the defense establishment was provided on the weekend in all the glory of its uniforms, wings and medals: The first sex criminal in the history of the army continues to wear the ranks of major general - Yitzhak Mordechai. He showed up at Tel Nof and on TV for the ceremonial parachute jump with the other former commanders of Battalion 890, including Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon. By doing so, Mordechai made a mockery of Ya'alon's efforts, and those of the judge advocate general, Major General Menachem Finkelstein, at hemming and hawing about the delays in convening the officers' committee that is supposed to decide to strip Mordechai of his rank, as required by military law. Ya'alon, Finkelstein, and above all, Shaul Mofaz, are helping Mordechai besmirch the IDF uniform. But what won't they do for Itzik, a man among men, a friend among friends.
The senior command thinks politically, about how to use the levers of power for personal and institutional achievements. They'll complain about lack of funding for combat in the territories, a lack of means that gets translated into life-and-death terms, but will continue spending tens of millions on a radio station that provides a personal forum for the minister or an officer who wants to be a minister, in long fawning conversations with soldiers and their parents.
One of the permanent distortions, which the law allowed until May 31 and which Mofaz and Ya'alon insist on perpetuating, is soldiers serving in Haredi schools. It's difficult to believe: The Haredi educational networks, The Independent Education Center and The Ma'ayan Center for Torah education, whose alumni don't exactly fill the army's ranks, get cheap labor in the form of soldiers who provide counseling services. And it's their compulsory service. Their salaries are paid by the Defense Ministry and, if they are injured on duty, they or their families will need the services of the Rehabilitation Services Department in the ministry.
The Haredi schools were slipped into the same military law that enabled positioning soldiers with the Shin Bet and Mossad, the police, the defense and foreign ministries, in medical services and immigration absorption services, in various environmental bodies and even - as a gift from the taxpayer to the military lobby - the Soldier's Welfare Association and the organization of retired career soldiers, Tzevet. Instead of these civilian bodies hiring clerks and other workers, and thus lowering unemployment rates, the defense minister signs off on an order that states that if soldiers aren't posted to these bodies, "national security goals will not be met." The most important national security goal is to please Shas and MK Yaacov Litzman from the Knesset Finance Committee.
Attorney Gilad Barnea from Jerusalem, followed by MK Chemi Doron from Shinui, exposed the distortion and discovered that the legal authority for posting soldiers in the Haredi schools expired two weeks ago. The IDF is hemming and hawing: No new soldiers will be sent to the schools, but a soldier sent to one of the Haredi schools before the law expired will remain there until the end of his service. An amazing answer that makes a mockery of the law. Maybe Mofaz and Ya'alon are hoping that Barnea and Doron will go to the High Court of Justice, to force the army to become more efficient. In any case, jobs are being canceled for the most experienced fighters in the territories, who have acquired invaluable and irreplaceable experience as noncommissioned officers. It's too bad, but there's no choice; the IDF has run out of money. Really. You have to believe.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now