Opinion

Barak and Kochavi – a Lethal Combination

IDF soldiers guard on the Gaza border, May 6, 2019.
\ Eliyahu Hershkovitz

As things look now, Israel has no interest in reoccupying the Gaza Strip or in annexing it, but it is determined to subdue it. And the desire to overpower Gaza is growing stronger every day.

Until recently, the killing was considered merely a means to realize military objectives. Now, however, it’s the objective itself. After all, if there’s no plan to defeat Gaza by conquering it, then the only way to subdue it is by killing its sons. The hatred is as strong as death.

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Currently, with the Israeli public totally immersed in the election campaign, Israeli army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi is totally occupied with how to kill as many “mehablim” as possible. Incidentally, according to a 2013 column by Elon Gilad in Haaretz, the Hebrew term mehabel, which is commonly translated into English as “terrorist” in referring to Palestinians, only arose after the Six-Day War. Before that they were called fedayeen, i.e. those who sacrifice themselves for a specific cause.

But currently in Israel there is even a refusal to use the borrowed term “terrorist” in Hebrew to describe the Palestinians, since the term also provided a certain measure of glorification to Zionist leaders such as Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir. So even when it comes to labeling those involved in terrorism – by Israel’s definition of course – Jews get preference.

Some go even further and refer to “nests of the mehablim” when talking about Palestinians. Demonization at its best.

“The message from the chief of staff is that one of the measures of [the success of] the fighting is the number of dead terrorists [mehablim],” Amir Bohbot wrote on the Walla website last week, referring to Kochavi’s preparations for a future war in Gaza. Buhbut also quoted Israeli army commanders as saying: “An unprecedented scope of fatalities will bring us victory.”

During the month of July, the competition among the military units in the south will be in full swing. The unit that scores the most points will get the killing award – leading the war in Gaza, in which one measure of success will be the number of dead Gazans – mehablim of course. No more of Prime Minister Golda Meir’s bemoaning being unable to forgive the Arabs “for having forced us to kill their sons.” No more apologetic tone about killing caused by the military campaign. Now killing is the goal of the campaign.

But with all due respect to Kochavi’s lethal innovations, he is not the first to adopt the killing doctrine. On December 27, 2008, the Israel Air Force, at the behest of then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak, launched a pinpoint missile attack on a police graduation ceremony in Gaza that killed 89 people. The message, according to Shay Fogelman, writing in Haaretz in 2010, was that “all police stations in Gaza are enemy targets, and all policemen, regardless of their ranks and duties and unit affiliations, are legitimate targets.”

Yes, even policemen tasked with directing traffic or apprehending criminals were deemed mehablim. One could expand it to include merchants who agreed to supply Hamas people with food, clothing, or notebooks for their children.

Incidentally, Hamas, like the Israeli right, won more than half the votes of local residents, and hundreds of thousands of people attend their rallies. Are all of them, as Hamas supporters, legitimate targets?

So this is the current situation: Israel is going to the polls and at the same time, its army is training to kill. Inside the villa – a term coined by Barak, a partner leading what’s known as “the sane camp” – the discussion is being conducted peacefully, while in the villa’s backyard, preparations for the slaughter are underway.

And the person who up to now has been preventing the situation from deteriorating into war, one with an “unprecedented scope of killings” is actually Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the enemy of the left.

In the near future, under a very realistic scenario, Barak, who would again be defense minister, will be sitting across the security cabinet table from Kochavi, who wants a lethal army. As the Arabs say: “Keep an eye on your bad luck, in case even worse luck appears.”