Had someone prophesized a month ago that this morning Benny Gantz would be the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff and Hosni Mubarak would no longer be president of Egypt, they would have been accused of being out of touch with reality. Nevertheless, in a few short weeks the unexpected happened in and near Israel. It's an important lesson for those with pretensions of being able to predict the trajectory of events.
In such fluid circumstances, Israelis want their army to be a stable anchor. For the past four years Gabi Ashkenazi stood at the head of the IDF, endeavoring to restore its faith in itself and turn it into a sharp and effective instrument in the hands of the country's statesmen. Lt. Gen. Gantz can be trusted to lead the army along a similar path, but the quality of the war machine depends in large measure on the quality of the peace mechanism. If Israel is fated to a military conflict, logic dictates that the conflict should be of the type that is imposed, not chosen. The government must do everything possible, without pretext or evasion, to exploit the opportunities for reaching arrangements with the Palestinians and neighboring states.
Unfortunately for the IDF, it has become clear over the past year that its most dangerous enemy is neither to the left nor the right, nor to the north or the south, but rather within. An ill wind blew from the highest offices of the Defense Ministry and the IDF General Staff headquarters, and threatened to wreak massive destruction. There were partners in this, some playing minor roles and others major, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi, under the drooping wings of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This wind also carried away Netanyahu and Barak's previous candidate for chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, whose appointment was snatched away from him at nearly the last moment.
The IDF does not have the leisure of self-absorption. It must ready itself, responsibly and vigilantly, to the tests to come, without abandoning its watch but also without contributing to an escalation that would fulfill the prophecies of wrath. The leaders of the army, led by Gantz on one hand, and of the cabinet on the other, must choose their actions with wisdom and the constant awareness of "so much work, so little time."
The military and political establishments are crying out for internal harmony in order to attend to foreign tests. Israel expects its leaders, civilians and soldiers alike, to fully meet their joint responsibility.
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