Generals renowned for strategy and bravery in war often make very poor national leaders. I speak here not of tin pot dictators and “generalisimos” whose chests are festooned with medals and ribbons, but of Israeli generals. As Martin Sherman, Israel’s superb commentator, wrote in The Jerusalem Post over a year ago in “Goofy Generals Galore”: “Virtually every time top military figures have departed from their field of expertise and ventured into one where they have none (politics), they have–almost invariably—been disastrously wrong.”
Moshe Dayan was commander of the Jerusalem front in Israel’s War of Independence and Chief of Staff during the 1956 Suez War. In 1967, while Minister of Defense, he became the symbol of the IDF. Probably the most famous photograph of the 1967 war, is that of Dayan praying at the just-liberated Western Wall. His downfall came when he was blamed for the intelligence failures prior to the 1973 war. Inexplicably in 1977 Menachem Begin restored him to public life by making him Foreign Minister. Dayan played a critical role in implementing the infamous Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. As lead negotiator, he held secret meetings with officials in India, Iran, England and Morocco and prodded a reluctant Begin to accept all Sadat’s demands. The resulting peace agreement gave Israel nothing but promises, which were flouted by Egypt before the ink was dry. In return Israel surrendered the entire Sinai and agreed to give ‘autonomy” to the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria. As Henry Kissinger later commented, “autonomy” was the embryo of partition and independence.
Yigal Allon was a respected general who served as Prime Minister for three weeks in 1969 when Levi Eshkol died suddenly. Shortly after the 1967 war his Allon Plan proposed the first post war surrender: it proposed partitioning the West Bank between Israel and Jordan, creating a Druze state in the Golan Heights, and returning most of the Sinai to Arab control. It was immediately rejected by King Hussein and ridiculed by the other Arab states, but it laid bare Israel’s willingness to divide the area, laying the ground for successive American sponsored “peace processes.”
The next general to become Prime Minister was Yitzhak Rabin who served twice, from 1974 to 1955 and again from July 1992 to November 1995 when he was assassinated. While during his first tenure he oversaw the hugely successful Entebbe rescue, during his second term he signed off on the Oslo agreement which was followed by a large and bloody siege of terrorism and continues to have catastrophic consequences for Israel. He shared a Nobel peace prize with Yasser Arafat for his disastrous actions.
Lt. General Ehud Barak is the most highly decorated soldier in Israel’s history and was Chief of Staff from 1991 to 1995. In 1999 he won against Netanyahu and became Israel’s tenth Prime Minister. He promptly resumed negotiations with the PLO and stated: “Every attempt to keep hold of the West Bank and Gaza leads, necessarily, to either a nondemocratic or a non-Jewish state. Because if the Palestinians vote, then it is a binational state, and if they don’t vote it is an apartheid state.”
This was mild compared to his recent statements. As David Hornik one of Israel’s best commentators points out: “In a speech on June 16, 2016 Barak—who, as Netanyahu’s defense minister, had warned steadily that time was running out to stop Iran’s nuclear program—said that Israel faced “no existential threats.” He went on to accuse Netanyahu of “Hitlerizing” threats to Israel, declaring “Hitlerization by the prime minister cheapens the Holocaust…. Our situation is grave even without [comparisons to] Hitler….”
Barak went on to give his own outrageous mis-characterization of the current situation:
“Only a blind person or a sheep, an ignoramus or someone jaded, can’t see the erosion of democracy and the ‘budding fascism.…’ If it looks like budding fascism, walks like budding fascism and quacks like budding fascism, that’s the situation…. In capitals around the world—in London and Washington, in Berlin and Paris, in Moscow and Beijing—no leader believes a word coming out of Netanyahu’s mouth or his government’s.”
Barak was succeeded by General Ariel Sharon.
Sharon was esteemed as the greatest field commander in Israel’s history, and one of the country’s greatest military strategists. After the 1973 (Yom Kippur War) where he reversed Israel’s early losses and encircled Egypt’s vaunted Third Army the Israeli public nicknamed him “The King of Israel”. But as Prime Minister he turned out to be a royal fraud. In September 2001, Sharon declared his support for an independent Arab state in Judea and Samaria and in 2003 endorsed the Road Map for Peace put forth by the United States with the EU and Russia. In 2005, Sharon surrendered Gaza and expelled 9,480 Jewish settlers from 21 settlements in Gaza and four settlements in the northern West Bank. The result was a disaster, with Hamas taking control, the shelling of southern Israel and two wars in Gaza (with more to come). After Sharon was felled by a stroke his policies of appeasement were furthered by Ehud Olmert who now resides in jail.
Then there’s General Amos Yadlin, who spent more than forty years in uniform. In 1981 he was one of the pilots selected for the mission to destroy Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor. In February 2002 Yadlin was appointed commander of the IDF’s Military Colleges and National Defence College. Between 2004 and 2006 he served as Israel’s military attaché to the United States. That’s a pretty impressive military resume. But the man who was instrumental in bombing Iraq’s nuclear reactor bombs when it comes to policy. I heard him speak at a friend’s house and respond to questions about Iran. His answer was short, arrogant and dismissive.: “I don’t lose any sleep about Iran.”
When asked about the Iran agreement in an interview these are his words:
“It depends on how you look at it. If we aspire to an ideal world and dream of having all of Israel’s justified demands fulfilled, then of course the agreement does not deliver…It leaves Iran more or less one year away from a nuclear weapon, and Israel will clearly not like all of this.
“But there’s another way to look at it that examines the current situation and the alternatives. In this other view, considering that Iran now has 19,000 centrifuges, the agreement provides quite a good package. One has to think what might have happened if, as aspired to by Netanyahu and Steinitz, negotiations had collapsed. Had that happened, Iran could have decided on a breakout, ignored the international community, refused to respond to questions about its arsenal, continued to quickly enrich and put together a bomb before anyone could have had time to react. And therefore, with this in mind, it’s not a bad agreement.” (huh???)
Other generals are equally clueless. In Nov. 2014 106 retired Israeli generals and intelligence officers sent a much publicized petition to Netanyahu stating “Israel has the strength and means to reach a two-state solution that doesn’t entail a security risk.” No security risk from a Palestinian state? They are dumb or duplicitous. And this year more than 200 retired generals (including Ehud Barak) signed on to a paper calling for Israel to end any claims to sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, and take a number of unilateral steps—including administratively dividing Jerusalem—to show it is “serious” about surrendering the areas.
The question remains and bewilders: Why have so many highly regarded military and intelligence officers of the IDF in effect turned the acronym into Israel Defamation Forces?