An Allegory About the Entire System

Sixty years on, and it turns out there has been no progress made forming a professional army devoid of politics.

Of all the myths on which the State of Israel was built during six decades of wars, campaigns and the preparations for them, there was none stronger than the myth of the military system. Sacrifice, mission, common purpose, brotherhood, and solidarity of the Three Musketeers type or in this case, 300,000 Musketeers, one for all and all for one. And in addition, an operational system that supplies results, whose people are tested by a strict index of achievement and not by their connections with a fiefdom, tribe or faction.

External analysts have confronted this myth with reality ever since the time of the War of Independence, pointing out the terrible price in human lives and national danger for dismissing outstanding officers and covering up for incompetent and reckless ones.

Only a few have dared to shake it from the inside, from a trap within which one can only escape bruised and wounded. So long as an officer continues to rush from one job to another and from one rank to the next, he worships the system, or at most curses it in silence.

Criticizing it in public only after his promotion has been held back raises the suspicious of sour grapes, and he is called on to explain why he is waking up so late.

In his campaign of rebuke two days ago ?(more than 2,400 harsh words?), Brigadier General Gal Hirsch challenged his listeners to view his personal story minus the pain and the feelings of injustice to the man and his family as an allegory of the entire military organization without which the State of Israel cannot exist. If that is the way in which he was treated one of the favorites of the system, and after such long and hard years of excellence and devotion which began with the first Lebanon War and ended with the second how can we rely on the good intentions and judgment of the decision makers, those who have remained inside the system or who have quit it and spent some time outside and then returned?One of the sad revelations in Hirsch?s remarks ?the habits of a political party?s bad central committee have infiltrated parts of the Israel Defense Forces, and the IDF has become politicized?; ?the senior army ranks hid behind the backs of the fighters in the field, deserted and abandoned commanders, and didn?t take any responsibility on themselves? is that there is nothing new about them.

Behind the walls of secrecy and censorship, there have been similar cases: from the dismissal of the Palmach commanders by David Ben-Gurion, to the attitude of the members of Mapai, the ruling party?s central committee, general and chief of staff Moshe Dayan toward the commanders like Assaf Simhoni and Ariel Sharon, and ending in struggles among the top brass in the defense establishment in the Yom Kippur War.

Sixty years on, and it turns out there has been no progress made forming a professional army devoid of politics. Rather, there is a vicious circle. Hirsch?s heart is bitter, especially toward the chief of staff at the time of the war, Dan Halutz; his deputy Moshe Kaplinski; defense minister Amir Peretz; and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert each for his own share and no less so toward his colleagues, the officers that convinced their superiors to dismiss him during the fighting so as to appoint those who were inciting them to get the job of division commander.

They spoiled things, but the successors to Halutz and Peretz did not take pains to fix them. The chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, who did not take the trouble to learn first-hand what the large division, the most active and successful in the war, had done, remembered to talk to Hirsch only on his way to the base where he would be demobilized, and even that only when he was urged to do so by one of the major generals.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who as chief of staff in the 1990s had crowned the young Hirsch commander of the Shaldag reconnaissance unit − with glory, this time completely ignored a letter by Hirsch.The State of Israel lacks a defense minister who will not be only the head of the special operations division in Military Intelligence, and a chief of staff who will be more than head of a training department of the ground forces.

The main responsibility for the miserable state of affairs in the IDF rests with Barak, who in his gloomy, Moshe Dayan-like mood, chose to quote ?(in an introduction to a book by Reserve Maj. Gen. Avraham Rotem, ?Bedek Bayit Betira??) the prophet, to beat their plowshares into swords and their pruning hooks into spears.

Loyalty must flow in both directions. In a military system of the type that perhaps caused an injustice to Hirsch and to others, young soldiers will refuse to become commanders, and young officers will flee it. It is likely to disintegrate into a loose alliance between armed militias. Israel is not immune to this, just as it has not received an exemption from political assassinations.