Opinion |

IDF Reservists' Letter: Too Little, Too Late

Those who appoint themselves to bear the colors of the most moral army in the world cannot do so as if they are some rare species loftily perched above those who populate the jungle.

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot.
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

So the guild signed a petition. Fifty-five reserve battalion commanders published a letter last Thursday in which they called to “strengthen the Israel Defense Forces, its commanders and the chief of staff at its helm, who constitute the protective wall of the State of Israel and Israeli society.” After them, five former chiefs of staff gathered at Yedioth Ahronoth headquarters for a friendly chat, a group photo, and to express their unreserved support for Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot. What suddenly set them off?

The members of the club were apparently spooked by the La Familia gang, which at a rally in honor of Israeli hero Elor Azaria chanted “Gadi, Gadi be careful, Rabin’s looking for a friend” (it rhymes in Hebrew). The gesture by the General Staff fraternity has already faded, displaced as it’s been by more important things – but it ought to cause alarm, and not just because of the threat to Eisenkot. He’s faced more dangerous things in his lifetime.

The initiative by the former top IDF brass purports to draw the boundary between those who see themselves as the owners and designers of the state’s values and everyone else; between those who bask in the title of “most moral army in the world” and the rest of the public, which isn’t particularly moral. Between the elites whose decorations ostensibly give them the right to determine what’s moral and what’s not, and the moral trash pile that makes up the government and to their great horror is in charge of the military.

And it is here that the appalling paradox lies. Because the ones who have bestowed upon the army the aura of moral superiority that the battalion commanders bask in are the members of that very same government, which is subordinate to an (allegedly) corrupt manipulator. The second paradox is that the IDF, that is, the chief of staff, is actually trying to pull out of this moralistic embrace.

Eisenkot knows that receiving any morality award from this prime minister is in itself immoral. That’s why he always makes a point of referring to “IDF values,” “the IDF spirit,” and “the IDF heritage,” and not the values of the State of Israel. Eisenkot is putting up a protective wall between the corrupt morals of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his morals, and is careful to make sure that the two don’t mix.

But then we had this enlistment of top brass in his defense, marking a dangerous line within the army itself – the line that separates the military guild from “the army of Elor Azaria.” Between the second generation of occupiers – Eisenkot was 7 years old during the Six-Day War, while former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz was 8 – and the Generation Y occupiers. This is the fourth generation, which doesn’t even know where the State of Israel’s borders are anymore; a generation that’s certain that by defending a gang of land thieves in the territories it is defending the state.

Tens of thousands of Arazia types don’t understand why their commanders have abandoned them and prosecuted someone who killed a live terrorist, and wonder why they need to give any accounting to a panel of military judges who “never engaged in combat” and never saw Hebron up close.

Aren’t those senior officers building a human barrier around the chief of staff the same ones who issued orders whose propriety is questionable? Did they not turn a blind eye as hundreds of Palestinians were killed from “shooting into the air” or rubber-tipped bullets, or when children who pulled scissors or kitchen knives out of their schoolbags were shot to death? Now those same officers purport to defend not just Israeli security, but Israeli society, as their letter puts it.

He who appoints himself to defend Israeli society and bear the colors of the most moral army in the world cannot do so from the safe cage of some generals’ fellowship, as if they are some rare species loftily perched above those who populate the jungle. Generals who speak of morality and are worried about what’s happening to Israeli society can’t fulfill their obligation by defending “one of their own,” while closing their eyes to the snowballing hazard called the Israeli government.

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