Opinion

Israel's Military Chief Is Preparing the Next War

In Israel, victories are not passed down as an inheritance; every generation must provide its own victory, and now it is Aviv Kochavi’s turn

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi .
Gil Eliahu

In the IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi’s lexicon, there are two common phrases – the first, “lethal army,” and the second, “guaranteeing the army’s preparedness for victory.” I hear them and get goose bumps from the freezing cold in which he spews the words “lethal” and “victory.”

The words of Fairouz from one of her performances are echoing inside my head: “My heart is with the people I don’t know who will die tonight,” she says to the commander of the rebellion who is preparing for the military campaign. And my heart is broken by the thought that many Arabs and Jews will die, it seems soon, according to Kochavi’s stubbornness and obsession.

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Amir Bohbot, military correspondent of the Walla news site, reported on a conference Kochavi convened last week for former members of the IDF General Staff – including Amos Yadlin, Giora Eiland, Yitzhak Gershon, Israel Ziv and former chief of staff Shaul Mofaz – “to discuss the main results of the seminar on the concept of mobilizing for victory.”

I read it and my eyes dim. Who does Kochavi intend on defeating – starving, besieged Gaza? The West Bank, chopped up into sealed cantons? Lebanon, with its ethnic schisms and million Syrian refugees filling its streets? Or maybe Syria, bleeding after its own Nakba?

Have we returned to the starting point, and after 70 years is Israel still looking for nations to defeat? If so, aren’t there any other nations in the world to defeat besides the Arabs? As if for last 70 years, Israel has only been “losing,” and Kochavi is determined to change this.

Is this the Zionist message to the peoples of the Middle East? Another rout and more pulverizing, another campaign and more burning into the consciousness, more cleansing of “nests of terrorists? Aren’t the shining victories of 1948, 1956, 1967, half a victory in 1973, etc., enough for the generals? It turns out that in Israel victories are not passed down as an inheritance; every generation must provide its own victory, and now it is Kochavi’s turn.

In the Kochavi era, and it is now official, the army is no longer a moral army, at least in its official description, but a lethal army. And I, paradoxically, understand him. Someone who has such an arsenal of lethal weapons – how can they think about peace? What will they do with them? Lend them out for lively Arab weddings, and then we will see tank fire or an impressive display of aircraft in honor of the bride and groom? I wish! Yes, it is possible to understand Kochavi – the man is armed from head to toe, and he should think of beating his swords into plowshares? It’s against the laws of nature.

Lower down in his article, Bohbot tells of another conference Kochavi convened, this time with the generals of the General Staff. “On the agenda was the mix of planes and ammunition the IDF is interested in purchasing from the Americans.” So what will the honorable chief of staff do with the old ammunition? Will he give it generously as a goodwill gesture to the neighbors, like decent people who give their old clothes to the needy? Of course not, and so soon we will add another layer of weapons, which we hope will age and rust without being used – and all at the expense of education and welfare. It’s just that the big problem here is that with such weapons, the appetite only grows.

This is a disastrous approach for Israel. If there is an existential danger to Israel, it is embodied in the hawkish Israeli worldview. Because those who are eager to do battle, not only next door but in Iraq, for example, as was reported recently, and in the Persian Gulf – according to Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz, Israel is taking part in the American effort to protect shipping there – are playing with fire. Entering a Turkish bath, say the Arabs, is not like leaving it.

For now, just before the election, the question that is keeping me busy is who would be preferable to work with Kochavi, the man of lethality and victory: Benjamin Netanyahu or Benny Gantz? Truly, not an easy question.