While Israel's new chief of staff, Air Force General
Dan Halutz, was assuming his new job, I stood with a group of demonstrators
at the gate of the General Staff building to protest against his appointment.
Our slogan was: "You have blood on your wings!" – a reminder of his
remarks when the Air Force dropped a one-ton bomb on a residential area in Gaza,
in order to kill Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh. As will be remembered, the bomb
also killed 14 uninvolved people, including nine children.
When Halutz was asked at the time what he feels after dropping a bomb, he replied:
"A slight bump to the wing." He added that afterwards he sleeps well.
I don't think that a person who expresses himself like that should be the
supreme commander of our army.
That does not mean that his predecessor was much better. But there is a rule:
"Every bad officeholder can be replaced by a worse one."
(That reminds one of the Jewish joke about the mean rich man in the ghetto.
When he passed away, nobody could be found to say something good about him,
as required by custom. In the end, someone volunteered: "We all know that
he was an evil old man, a thief, and a miser, but compared to his son he was
Even before he took off his uniform, the dismissed chief of staff, Moshe ("Bogy")
Yaalon, shot off a salvo of declarations that disclose both his character and
his views. In an interview with the right-wing Ha'aretz journalist Ari
Shavit, he said:
"If we don't give the Palestinians more and more and more, there will
be a violent explosion. There is a high probability of a second terrorist
war. … Kfar Sava [on the Israeli side of the Green line] will be treated
like Sderot. Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem too." Sderot was a regular target
for Qassam missiles.
"What will happen after the disengagement? … Terrorist attacks
of all kinds, shooting, bombs, suicide bombers, mortars, Qassam rockets. …
You left Gaza? Quiet. You will leave Judea and Samaria? There will be quiet.
You will leave Tel-Aviv? There will be real quiet. … [The Palestinian
side] speaks about Safed and Haifa and Tel-Aviv."
"The paradigm of the Two States will not bring about stability. No!
… [The Two-State solution] is not relevant. Not relevant. … [The
Palestinian state] will undermine the State of Israel. From there, the confrontation
will go on."
"The State of Israel is ready to give the Palestinians an independent
Palestinian state, but the Palestinians are not ready to give us an independent
Jewish state. … Every agreement you make will be the starting point of
the next irredenta. The next conflict. The next war."
"The establishment of a Palestinian state will lead at some stage
to war. Such a war can be dangerous to the State of Israel. The idea that
it is possible to set up a Palestinian state by 2008 and to achieve stability
is disconnected from reality and dangerous. … Bush's vision is disconnected
"[So what is the solution?] A much longer process, that will first
of all necessitate a revolution of values on the Palestinian side. …
I do not see an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in my generation."
"Abu Mazen has not given up the Right of Return … to come back
to the homes, to come back to the villages. … This would mean that there
will be no Jewish state. … Even Abu Mazen is not ready to accept a Jewish
On Palestinian democracy: "This is democracy? This is gangs!"
"There is a possibility that the Israeli army will be compelled [after
the disengagement] to return to the Gaza Strip."
The general outlook: "We are a society at war. Our sword must remain
unsheathed. Every day it must remain unsheathed. … A society at war. Without
illusions. Without the false belief that we shall solve this, one way or another.
No, it will not be solved."
What does that remind one of? This is an almost exact copy of the famous speech
made by Moshe Dayan in May 1955 at the grave of Roi Rotenberg. Moshe Yaalon
was a toddler at that time. Like the Bourbon monarchy in France, he has forgotten
nothing and learned nothing.
One can view this discourse with cynicism. Yaalon is full of resentment against
Ariel Sharon and Shaul Mofaz, the two people who pushed him out of office after
only three years, instead of giving him the customary fourth year.
Since the withdrawal from Gaza is the baby of Sharon and Mofaz, Yaalon is trying
to torpedo it.
But why stop there? One could cynically assert that Yaalon is expressing the
views of the army High Command, and the army has no interest in peace. No human
organization seeks a situation that will make it superfluous. On the contrary,
it yearns for circumstances where it will be needed even more. Therefore, the
higher officers' corps is not really interested in a peaceful solution.
This is confirmed by the fact that after the publication of these remarks, on
the day Yaalon left office, he was treated to a huge outpouring of support and
affection from his colleagues. Nobody contradicted him, not even anonymously.
However, the cynical approach does not lead to a deeper understanding.
This phenomenon goes beyond conscious personal interests.
The army educates for war and thinks only in terms of war. A real general cannot
even imagine himself in a state of peace. For many years, no important Israeli
general (with the honorable exceptions of Amram Mitzna and Ami Ayalon) has made
a declaration from which it could be adduced that he really believes in peace.
That is serious for two reasons:
First, because Yaalon represents an elite group that has a huge influence on
Israeli society. Through the hundreds of retired generals, the "generals'
party" controls almost all the key political and economic positions in
the country, from the government, the cabinet, and the political parties to
most of the big public and private corporations.
Second, because the chief of staff, the chief of the Mossad, and the chief
of the Security Service attend cabinet meetings, and their political evaluations
practically dictate the steps of the government. The views of the chief of staff
are not a private matter – they have a huge impact on the behavior of the
For three years, Yaalon was the chief of the Israeli army. During this period,
the West Bank has been covered with more than a hundred settlement "outposts."
One of the founders of these outposts testifies in Haim Yavin's new TV series
that all these outposts were put up according to army directives, according
to a military plan designed to cut the West Bank into ribbons and thereby prevent
the establishment of a Palestinian state. Yaalon's declarations expose the ideological
background of this.
When the chief of staff believes that peace is impossible, now and in the future,
naturally all his advice to the cabinet – advice with the force of directives
– is influenced by this belief.
Yaalon's assertions lead to the conclusion that there is not – and cannot
be – a Palestinian partner. In this respect there is total agreement between
General Yaalon, General Ehud Barak, and General Sharon. Abu Mazen, who is plotting
to lead four million Palestinian refugees back to their former homes and villages,
certainly is no partner. The conclusion: the disengagement must be unilateral,
as decided by Sharon. Another conclusion: There is no place for a political
process after the disengagement, since the Palestinians just want "more
and more and more."
Peace? Don't make Bogy laugh. Or Ehud. Or Arik, either.
For several weeks now, Yaalon has been busy with a farewell tour he has organized
for himself. He has gone from command post to command post, from camp to camp,
and everywhere had himself photographed from every angle, always with the helmet
on his head, the boots on his feet, and the gun at his shoulder. Rather pathetic.
His subordinates and colleagues accorded him the adulation due to one of the
great Captains of History, the man who "vanquished terrorism."
Truth is, of course, that Yaalon was a very small captain. At best, the Israeli
army finished the "war" with a draw. It did not find an answer to
the mortar shells and the Qassam rockets; it was compelled to accept an unofficial
cease-fire it did not want. In a confrontation between a mighty army and small
underground organizations, a draw is a big failure for the chief of staff. All
in all, he failed like all his predecessors, as his successor will also fail.
As all generals around the world have failed in similar situations.
As his last remarks have shown, Yaalon is a rather limited person, with an
average intellect and quite primitive views. In his declarations, one can find
all the stereotypes and all the myths of 120 years of Zionism.
There is not a gram of independent thought.
And that may well be the most depressing aspect of the affair.
While in office, the leaders of our army are shielded from all critical appraisal.
They are surrounded by a protective shield of spittle-licking "military
correspondents" and spokespersons duty-bound to lie. They always appear
omniscient, in possession of a superb analytical mind, devoted with head and
heart to the security and the future of the state, having no other interest.
When they take off their uniforms and lose the military aura, they reappear
as quite different people. Recast as civilians, the former chiefs of the army,
the Mossad, and the Security Service show themselves as very ordinary people,
most of them mediocre, some rather less. Occasionally there was one of serious
caliber, but not a few were plain stupid, and perhaps disturbed. It is quite
frightening to think that such people led the state and were responsible for
matters of life and death.
What is even more frightening is that Yaalon does indeed look like an angel
compared to his successor.