Escalation and Trouble Ahead in Any Evacuation

When the press published the general staff's lessons from the evacuation of Gaza, mentioning the slow pace at the start of the preparations, Ya'alon called from Washington to senior officers and complained bitterly.

Moshe Ya'alon is not pleased with the army. Since the end of his term as chief of staff, and even before he became the senior-most military commentator on possible ways to attack Iran, Ya'alon came under criticism as the person who last summer was sycophantically praised in sticky, embarrassing group farewells. When the press published the general staff's lessons from the evacuation of Gaza, mentioning the slow pace at the start of the preparations, Ya'alon called from Washington to senior officers and complained bitterly. Now he has another reason. Even junior officers now allow themselves to criticism him, sometimes formulating it through a negative to praise their current commander, Chief of Staff Dan Halutz.

In the latest issue of Beyn Hazirot (Between the Arenas), the Israel Defense Forces journal of behavioral science, Lt. Hadass Minke-Brand, a counselor in the Golani Division on behalf of the psychology department of the Ground Forces Command, writes about "motivating subordinates in the disengagement mission - the case of Golani." She refers to statements made by Ya'alon and other senior officers who "expressed concern about the IDF's ability to perform the mission in the face of civilian calls for refusing orders," in early 2005, and how, the new chief of staff arrived "and exuded confidence in the army's ability to succeed at the mission even under extreme circumstances such as mass refusal to obey orders."

According to Minke-Brand, the main axis of Golani was in Golani itself, in the hands of its commander, Erez Zuckerman. Under his command, an emphasis was placed on preventing refusal, as distinct from dealing with it ipso facto. Soldiers who were on the brink of refusal were defined as "having difficulty," and if they did not behave with demonstrative provocation or incited mutiny, they were enveloped in a soft attitude. Zuckerman distinguished between career officers who were allowed to resign as volunteers who had regrets "in light of missions or matters that were not to their liking" without being prosecuted and those conscripts "who do not choose their missions." And among them there was a distinction made between vague talk about refusal in the future and active refusal when the order was given, "which would result in an uncompromising command and removal from the division."

Golani's success was defined from the start as "an absence of refusal among officers and in units - squads, platoons, companies, brigades) and reducing the phenomenon to a negligible minority of individuals." At the demonstrations by evacuation opponents, especially at Kfar Maimon, "more than 50 percent of the officers had relatives or close friends on the inside of the fence around the settlement, as demonstrators. An absolute majority of commanders grew up as religious-Zionist. The mutual joy at their meetings could be recognized from afar in the embraces and shared experiences. Among the demonstrations were spotted many demobilized soldiers from Golani, with recent demobilization dates and an emphasis on elite units like Egoz and the Golani Reconnaissance Brigade. On the ground, a dialogue emerged between the Golani commanders and settlement leaders, in the form of mediation through the sons. The protesting heads of the settlements who conducted the dialogue for their side Pinchas Wallerstein, Effi Eitam, Moti Yogev, Rafi Ben Best - all had sons who were commanders of Golani companies and groups. The expeditionary company, the religious-Zionist camp, expects its boys to keep the role of social leaders, with the source of legitimacy and the ability to take the lead within the IDF. On the issue of refusing orders, the fathers of the settlements and the army commanders had a common interest. For both sides, refusal to obey is an existential threat to their identity and the institutional sources of legitimacy."

After Amona, and on the eve of an election whose results seem to guarantee a government of evacuation and escalation in the war against the evacuations, this calming conclusion is no longer valid. Golani, writes Minke-Brand, was saved from many months of dealing with a critical situation in which "the mission was enforcing order among Israelis with repeated clashes." Those doing the evacuation in uniform will be freed from conscript duty, go back to their settlements and beef up the opponents; it is not clear who will fall apart sooner, the settlements or the divisions. And even if the IDF, police and Shin Bet stand up to the task of getting out of the territories, the state comptroller is holding a report that expresses doubt about those in responsible positions inside Israel proper, the managers of the civilian temptation-compensation, being able to implement the declarations of the politicians.