Editorial

Netanyahu Promotes Propaganda at Security’s Expense

On the battle for the Israeli electorate, Netanyahu assumes that Israel’s military ambiguity serves his political rivals, while headlines that glorify Israel’s offensive capabilities constitute effective election propaganda

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters at the Haifa Naval Base, February 12, 2019.
Elad Gershgoren

Contrary to the practice of the security establishment, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week confirmed that Israel attacked two Hezbollah positions in Syria on Monday. By doing so, the prime minister once again violated the policy of ambiguity that Israel has maintained regarding such attacks over the years.

The logic behind this vagueness is that it allows Iran, Syria and Hezbollah to restrain themselves despite the attacks against them. Dramatic headlines would embarrass the leaders of these enemies and force them to respond.

But in the battle for the Israeli electorate, Netanyahu assumes that Israel’s military ambiguity serves his political rivals, while headlines that glorify Israel’s offensive capabilities under his rule constitute free and effective election propaganda.

Netanyahu repeatedly subordinates the interests of the State of Israel to his own political survival. For the first time in years, Netanyahu is facing a political opponent who threatens his power, and it seems there is no line he won’t cross to ensure his continued tenure, even if the price is state security.

>> On election battlefield, Netanyahu blurs line between security and propaganda | Analysis

Israel’s ambiguity policy isn’t holy, and there should be a serious discussion of its necessity. There are good reasons to abandon this strategy in favor of greater transparency. Ambiguity sometimes hides military failures, incorrect decisions or unnecessary actions that the public would be better off knowing about.

But Netanyahu’s breach of this policy has nothing to do with this. The premier hasn’t opened a door to a real debate over the targets of the Israel Defense Forces’ attacks, the attacks’ purpose or necessity, the military or economic costs involved or the political wisdom behind them. He isn’t calling for transparency regarding the security cabinet discussions that precede the attacks, so the public can know who supported them and who opposed them.

No such debate has ever been held in the security cabinet or in any other forum. In contrast to Netanyahu, senior defense officials refrained from commenting on the incident in the Syrian Golan Heights. It seems that Netanyahu’s concern isn’t Israel’s security needs or the public’s right to know, but Benny Gantz’s flattering poll results.

A prime minister who boasts about Israeli attacks, violating a policy he considered sacred until a few months ago and putting Israel’s security at risk merely to get re-elected is an irresponsible prime minister.

Netanyahu is losing the last traces of his concern for the national interest. He is not worthy of his position.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.