Zionist Camp vs. the Right: A Beauty Contest for Mr. Defense

Will Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni's big-name general save us from Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon? The answer is no because they don't differ in any significant way.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Defense Ministe Moshe Ya'alon watching a Golani Brigade exercise.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Defense Ministe Moshe Ya'alon watching a Golani Brigade exercise. Credit: GPO
Yitzhak Laor
Yitzhak Laor

The uproar over Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming speech in Washington and the White House’s helpless displeasure over the prime minister’s planned double act — namely intervention in U.S. politics and the mingling of those politics with our own — were mishandled as usual.

TV analysts embraced Netanyahu’s vow not to forget Iran, and Zionist Camp was angry at the boost the speech might give the prime minister at the polls. So the opposition warned us yet again about our deteriorating relations with the United States. It’s the timeworn formula used by the “moderates” when criticizing the “extremists”: You’re stirring up trouble between our weak little country and the mighty U.S. of A.

For the sake of historical truth, note that so far the mutual love is boundless. Bilateral relations between the two countries have withstood every insult and provocation. No love is as strong as that between a man and his mistress.

So what’s the opposition’s stance on the dispute between Netanyahu and the Republicans on one side and the administration trying to reach a deal with Iran on the other? We haven’t heard a word. We’ve only heard that “Netanyahu is endangering our soldiers if they’re brought to The Hague” and that the Iron Dome anti-rocket system will be at risk in the next war.

In short, the United States is important for our future wars. Regarding the dispute itself — over the meshing of the Israeli and U.S. war machines in what could be a regional doomsday war with Iran — we haven’t heard a tweet from the opposition.

It could of course be that the opposition — headed by Tzipi Livni, the most extremist of the Gaza war leaders, and Isaac Herzog, who has recruited Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin to make up for his colorless noncombat record — really doesn’t have a different opinion on this vital issue.

You may remember that for years the Israeli security debate paralleled the opposing positions in the United States. The doves opposed the settlements so as not to anger our great ally in the West. The State Department always said the settlements were an obstacle to peace. U.S. defense officials, on the other hand, gave a wink and a nod while whispering “bullshit” in Israeli ears. And so the settlements expanded with U.S. financing and the debate between doves and hawks faded.

The hawks, first in the Labor Party and then to the right, with their ever-increasing power, relied on the tight relations between Israel’s top defense officials and the Pentagon and CIA. This is the source of the right’s power, the unwritten military pact between Israel and the United States. The latter no longer makes demands regarding the settlements, and negotiations with the Palestinians aren’t part of the debate, neither here nor across the ocean. All we’re left with is the struggle between Republicans and Democrats.

One could argue that Habayit Hayehudi, Yesh Atid and Zionist Camp hesitate to say that they agree with Netanyahu and that the Republicans, including the Tea Party, are good for us. No one dares say the Republicans are using our blood as a currency, and AIPAC is a disaster not just for the Palestinians but for us as well. Even the sponsors of the two camps in Israel, billionaires Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban, are more transparent in their disputes.

Our politicians are wary about discussing the most important topic — the conflict. The Americans have abandoned the Middle East so there’s widespread agreement here that there’s “no partner” for negotiations. Of course there’s a partner. The wide national consensus wants to make that partner buckle, or for us to prepare for the next “operation.” Will Yadlin save us from Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon? The answer is no because they don’t differ in any significant way.

Do we have anyone we can depend on? It seems a beauty contest for Mr. Defense is all that’s left of the debate on diplomatic and defense issues, even though this is what will decide the election: “security issues.” We’ll look back on all this during the next war.

As that 1948 war song goes — “we’ll remember every one of them,” referring, of course, only to the Jewish war dead. We promise. An election-time promise.