Desperate Journey, Stupid Act: Why Israelis Voters Should See Right Through Netanyahu

PM's efforts in recent days to save his slipping hold on his rule with the aid of the Republicans in the U.S. Congress is 'Hannibal' against U.S. President Barack Obama.

Amir Oren
Amir Oren
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 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit: AP
Amir Oren
Amir Oren

An Israel Defense Forces officer complained last week about the criticism leveled against those who had written the commendations for the women soldiers decorated in last summer’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. The certificates said “they did not lose their composure” during times of danger and “functioned excellently.” Never at the end of any Israeli military operation has so much praise been heaped on so many female soldiers – four in number. So why is everyone so bothered – men and women – by the phrasing that was actually written by some junior woman officer on the official decorations committee?

The officer even took the trouble to leaf through the thick volume of the stories behind the IDF decorations and commendations and found that “1st. Lt. Gad Refen commanded a tank platoon on June 6, 1967 in the battle on the ridges of Jenin, took command of the company, attacked, conquered the objective, his tank exploded, his hand was amputated, seriously burned, did not lose his composure, organized his men and kept them under control until they were evacuated from the position. For this act he was awarded the Medal of Valor,” Israel’s highest military award.

So there is not necessarily any correlation between heroism and masculinity, and between gender and losing your cool.

This is a nice trick, turning the trend around, a lesson in offensive spokesmanship – but it also includes within it a risk. Someone might just possibly think at this opportunity to take a look at the explanations behind the medals and discover among them that the IDF has sanctified suicide and the killing of wounded who might be captured by the enemy. One of the dozen “Heroes of Israel” from the 1948 War of Independence, squad commander Zerubavel Horowitz, was decorated for “blowing up an armored vehicle with himself and his wounded comrades inside, when he lost hope of any rescue to prevent falling into enemy hands.”

The northern military base “Filon” is named in honor of 1st. Lt. Filon Friedman, even without a medal, who killed the wounded he was covering and then committed suicide, so as not to be captured by the enemy.

We can learn from this that the IDF admires junior commanders who have appointed themselves to kill their comrades, as a less bitter alternative to the abuse and death at the hands of a vicious enemy.

In practice, this is the original version of the “Hannibal” protocol, whose name was created from the first letter of the Hebrew word for “kidnapped,” like the use (in Hebrew) of “Perah” (flower) for a wounded soldier or the “harduf” plant (oleander) for a dead soldier, in the common parlance for reports over the military radio networks. (In the United States military during the Vietnam War they preferred to use drinks: Whiskey for wounded and Kool-Aid for killed.)

From the 1980s on a completely different context was set, of negotiations or extortion for obtaining human ransom – terrorists held prisoner – in return for captives held hostage. But that is already a different discussion, more like the disagreement over targeted assassinations. The military is allowed to endanger its soldiers, or to try to kill its enemies without limitations, as long as they are anonymous soldiers. The minute the person has a name, a face, family – a defined procedure is needed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts in recent days to save his slipping hold on his rule with the aid of the Republicans in the U.S. Congress is “Hannibal” against U.S. President Barack Obama and losing his cool – it has never been proved how much he had in the first place – in the way Abba Eban once said that Moshe Dayan’s conscience was clear since he had never once used it.

This desperate journey is a stupid act, which has finally pushed Obama to rid himself of Netanyahu.

In internal documents from the time of the Carter administration, which were released last month, the president’s liaison with the Jewish community, Ed Sanders, raised the recommendation time after time for restraint in the face of Menachem Begin’s provocations – who established settlements despite their illegality and avoided the peace process – otherwise the conflict might strengthen him. This was an idle threat at the time, and it has no real weight today either facing Netanyahu.

If Netanyahu stubbornly insists on going to the AIPAC conference and speaking to the Congress two weeks before the Knesset election, it can be assumed the Obama administration will find a way to grant even more than equal honor to Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni. This is a cowardly act, which shows that the prime minister’s box of tricks is empty.

In light of the hysterical frenzy of Netanyahu, who is searching for the kingdom and losing control, every Israeli who is uncertain how to vote must ask himself the question of questions: If Bibi is so good, how is it that everything is so bad?

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