Israel’s Army Chief Is Super Popular. Uh Oh

A strong army doesn't kill a child searching for edible plants; it doesn't shoot a judge at a border crossing.

Yossi Sarid
Yossi Sarid
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Chief of Staff Benny Gantz during a training exercise in the Golan. Will the next flare-up be on his watch?
Chief of Staff Benny Gantz during a training exercise in the Golan. Will the next flare-up be on his watch?Credit: IDF Spokesman's Office
Yossi Sarid
Yossi Sarid

The margin of error won’t change the picture: Chief of Staff Benny Gantz leads our A-Team in the latest popularity poll. Only 7 percent of us aren’t satisfied with his performance. Why should he poke his head into politics, where he’ll only lose points?

From time immemorial our chiefs of staff led the pack. We’ve had lots of polls, and all named the chief of staff No. 1. They sought to crown Gantz’s predecessor, Gabi Ashkenazi, too. You were our warrior. Why not be our prime minister?

But when it came time for him to exit, the crowd’s darling left behind a carcass. No longer do his admirers speak highly of the one who ostensibly repaired the ruins left by Moshe Ya’alon and Dan Halutz.

Every chief of staff has his day. First he shows great promise, but in the end he disappoints. Those “defending the homeland” have come a long way from the one-armed heroes to the ones with half-witted solutions.

But you don’t have to be stats guru Camil Fuchs to understand the popularity of the uniform. If we can’t count on our chief of staff, who can we count on? Our father in heaven? The military chief rabbi? If our chief of staff isn’t there for us, who will be? If we have to rely on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alone, we might as well slash our wrists. It’s not you, Gantz, it’s us, the frightened ones.

Who will strengthen us in our weakness, who will look after us in our orphaned state, who can we believe during these days of fear and suspicion? That is, until you, Mr. Lieutenant General, filled us with confidence in your interviews for the Passover-edition newspapers. Today’s Israel Defense Forces is stronger, so our enemies better be careful, because Gantz is waiting for them. It’s his turn.

So why aren’t we reassured? Why do we get the feeling we should be concerned? Why are we suddenly remembering all the unsurprising surprises, the ones that brought on disasters and ruined careers, turning the storied and gloried into the cursed? Every blunder brings its own shock.

Just last week we had another surprise. “We didn’t think something like this could happen; we weren’t prepared for Jews attacking the Jews that were protecting them,” admitted the battalion commander, sounding betrayed. As if soldiers hadn’t been attacked by settlers dozens of times; as if the president never issued statements decrying the “seriousness” and the “shame.”

If the IDF bigwigs don’t know what’s going on in the rabbis’ courts, how can they know what’s going on in the ayatollahs’ strategy rooms? They should know by now that everyone who has peered into the viper’s nest at Yitzhar and emerged unscathed should recite the Hagomel prayer of thanks somewhere else.

A “strong IDF” doesn’t need a showcase operation thousands of miles away, one that will be drowned in a sea of words. A “strong IDF,” one that is also smart, doesn’t dismiss a cadet who innocently sketches a famous mustache. It doesn’t lay Israel’s very existence at the feet of a cartoon.

A “strong IDF,” the “most moral” army in the world, doesn’t kill a child who is searching for edible plants. It doesn’t stop up the wells of the thirsty. It doesn’t destroy shacks and pens housing the children of shepherds and their flocks.

A “strong IDF” doesn’t shoot a judge at a border crossing and spread a tale about soldiers who “felt threatened.” By the way, why haven’t we heard about the results of that investigation, which, like most such investigations, is launched in the fog of battle and never ends in the sunshine?

And what’s this story about dividing authority between the army, the police, the Shin Bet security service, the Border Police, the Civil Administration and the coordinator of government activities in the territories, if not to make sure responsibility falls between the cracks, and to totally confuse the army and us all?

After all, they’re all one body following one discipline in the spirit of one commander: Don’t upset the settlers, morning or night; don’t touch the messiahs of heresy or disturb the rabbis of destruction if you want to be promoted. And what brigadier general doesn’t want to be a field marshal?

So many reasons to worry, so many worrying signs – the IDF is not what you thought it was. But the main thing is, fear not tomorrow, says the hero of the day, buoyed by the glowing public-opinion polls.

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