On Monday, saboteurs bombed the Egyptian gas pipeline to Israel for the third
time since former president Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February. The move
was just another reminder that Israel today faces the most daunting and complex
threat spectrum it has ever seen.
From Egypt to Turkey to Iran to the
international Left to the Obama administration, Israel faces a mix of military
and political challenges that threaten its very existence on multiple
levels. To meet these challenges, it is vital for the government and
people of Israel to stand strong, unified and determined. The approaching storm
will test our resilience as we have never been tested
Unfortunately, even if the government is competent, and even if
the nation stands strong, there is reason to fear that Israel will fail to
successfully withstand the dangers gathering against it. Unelected,
unrepresentative and irresponsible senior government officials are liable to
take actions that undermine the government’s ability to protect the country and
weaken the public’s morale and unity of purpose.
Over the past week, we
received two reminders of how dire the situation is. The first reminder relates
to institutional impediments to the government’s freedom of action in preventing
Iran from fielding a nuclear arsenal.
Since the beginning of his first
term as prime minister 15 years ago, Binyamin Netanyahu has consistently warned
that the greatest dangers Israel faces stem from the forces of global jihad
generally and the Iranian regime and its nuclear program specifically. After
taking office for the second time in 2009, Netanyahu made blocking Iran’s rise
to nuclear power his top priority. He ordered the heads of the Mossad and
the IDF to prepare plans to attack Iran’s nuclear installations.
Friday, Haaretz reported that former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and former IDF
chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi refused to obey his order. Rather
than prepare strike plans, Dagan and Ashkenazi warned that such a strike would
foment a regional war. That is, rather than do their jobs, they made excuses for
failing to fulfill their duty to obey Israel’s elected leadership.
wanting to take them on directly, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak
decided to wait them out. Dagan and Ashkenazi were both set to finish their
terms at the beginning of the year, and Netanyahu and Barak figured they could
replace them with commanders who would abide by the government’s wishes.
Specifically, Barak and Netanyahu believed that by replacing Ashkenazi with his
deputy Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant, they would have a military leader willing and able
to take on the central challenge of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear
Barak announced last August that Galant would replace Ashkenazi as
IDF chief in January. Galant’s appointment was approved by the government
and by the Senior Appointments Commission. But in late January, the government
was forced to cancel it. And this week we received new indications that Galant’s
appointment fell victim to what has been likened to a palace coup. That is, the
government was denied its right to choose its military leader by a group of
senior officials who deliberately usurped that power from the
In January, we learned that Ashkenazi’s close associate
Lt.-Col. (ret.) Boaz Harpaz had forged a document that was transferred by
Ashkenazi’s office to Channel 2. The forgery purported to be a memo written for
Galant by the public relations firm owned by Eyal Arad – Kadima’s public
relations guru. The forged memo detailed a public relations campaign that would
discredit Galant’s rivals and Ashkenazi, and so pave the way for Galant’s
appointment as chief of General Staff. Channel 2’s broadcast of the memo
seriously harmed Galant’s public image.
The police opened an
investigation, and Harpaz admitted to forging the document. Despite
revelations that Harpaz was in intensive, continuous contact with Ashkenazi’s
wife Ronit and had a longstanding close friendship with Ashkenazi himself, the
Military Advocate- General decided not to investigate Ashkenazi or any other
officer about their ties to Harpaz and his forged document.
weekend, Yediot Aharonot reported that last week Harpaz underwent two lengthy
interrogations by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss. Harpaz is
reportedly divulging information about his connections to
Despite Harpaz’s own admission that he forged the document,
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein has abstained, to date, from indicting him.
Although jarring, Weinstein’s actions are not surprising. It was Weinstein who
personally overturned Galant’s appointment in January.
defamatory memo wasn’t the only thing working against Galant’s appointment. A
previously unknown environmental group called the Green Movement filed a
petition with the Supreme Court calling for the cancellation of Galant’s
appointment because in the past he had used the state lands around his family
homestead in Moshav Amikam without permission. Since his actions were
administrative infractions rather than criminal acts, the Senior Appointments
Commission concluded that he was fit to serve as chief of
Weinstein felt differently. Claiming that he had ethical problems
with Galant’s behavior, Weinstein refused to defend the appointment to the
Supreme Court. Weinstein’s announcement forced the government to cancel Galant’s
Ashkenazi’s chosen successor,Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz,
whom Barak had previously eliminated from the running, was appointed
Perhaps due to fear that Gantz might not stand up to Netanyahu
and Barak as he and Ashkenazi did, Dagan shocked the country last month by
launching an unprecedented public attack against Netanyahu and Barak. His clear
aim was to discredit the option of an Israeli military strike against
According to Haaretz, Dagan was motivated by his desire to cover up
his failure to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Also according to
Haaretz, Ashkenazi, together with recently retired IDF intelligence chief
Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, supported Dagan’s attacks through off-record
It is impossible for the public to know what is going on
behind closed doors. We cannot know whether a worthy general’s rivals’
successful campaign to discredit him has doomed the country to another three
years of defeatist, incompetent stewardship of the IDF – and what’s worse, to a
nuclear-armed Iran. What we do know is that a handful of unelected civil
servants took it upon themselves to undermine the government’s ability to lead
The government is not the only target on the runaway clerks’
target list. Members of the nationalist camp are also subject to systematic
campaigns of criminalization and demoralization.
This week we were
witness to the troubling spectacle of senior rabbis being dragged into police
stations for questioning. Their purported crime involves writing blurbs praising
a religious book written by another rabbi.
The book in question is
reportedly a highly controversial tome that sets out the religious precepts
governing the killing of enemies of Israel in times of war and peace. It was
authored by Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira from Yitzhar.
organizations filed a complaint against the book, claiming that it incites
murder of non-Jews. Shapira was arrested and brought before the district court
for arraignment in leg shackles and handcuffs last year.
And over the
past several days, Rabbis Dov Lior and Ya’acov Yosef have been arrested and
questioned by police for the blurbs they authored that were published in the
It is hard to know the basis for the complaint. Generally
Israeli law stipulates that there has to be a tangible connection between
incendiary words and the likely commission of the crime they incite. No such
connection seems to exist in the case of Shapira’s book.
In the wake of
Lior’s arrest, his students staged raucous, enraged protests against the State
Attorney’s Office and the Supreme Court. For their part, senior
prosecutors announced that no one in Israel is above the law. And this is true
Unfortunately they do not practice what they preach. In arresting
the rabbis, the police were acting in accordance with their instructions from
Assistant Attorney-General for Special Projects Shai Nitzan.
The bulk of
Nitzan’s duties revolve around applying the law in a discriminatory manner
against the Israeli Right.
Following Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in
1995, then-attorney-general Michael Ben-Yair established Nitzan’s position. The
position was specifically geared toward criminalizing Israelis who live beyond
the 1949 armistice lines.
Among other things, the assistant
attorneygeneral for special projects oversees the operation of an inter-agency
group called the Task Force for Law Enforcement against Israelis in Judea and
The task force was officially canceled in 1998 by the
government, acting on the advice of then-attorney-general Elyakim
Rubenstein. Rubenstein argued that the task force’s mission of enforcing
specific laws against a specific population group was inherently
In breach of the government decision, the task force has
continued to meet regularly. Nitzan has overseen its activities since he
was promoted to his position in 2005.
In 2009, MK Ze’ev Elkin convened a
special Knesset hearing on the activities of Nitzan’s task force. According to
an Arutz 7 report of the proceedings, he subpoenaed protocols from the meetings
and found that its activities were deeply prejudicial and politically
motivated. Among other things, the protocols disclosed that the task
force members were required to file a minimum monthly quota of five criminal
complaints against Israelis in Judea and Samaria suspected of building
The quota system is doubly prejudicial. First, by making
investigations an institutional requirement rather than a function of the
suspected commission of specific illegal acts, it is an invitation for frivolous
prosecutions and official harassment.
Second, inside the 1949 armistice
lines, the general practice is to treat building violations as administrative
rather than criminal offenses. By using a different practice for Israelis
living outside the armistice lines, Nitzan and his team members enacted a
separate legal regime for a select group of citizens, thus undermining the
foundations of the rule of law.
Elkin’s 2009 hearing made no
difference. And after Lior’s arrest last week, Elkin again demanded its
disbanding in accordance with the government decision and the rule of
law. And no doubt, the legal fraternity will continue to ignore his
Through their behavior, the legal fraternity is not merely making
a mockery of the rule of law. They are undermining the social fabric of the
As for the government, the senior civil service’s erosion of the
governing authority of the political leadership has risen to critical levels. As
Galant’s scuttled appointment and Dagan’s and Ashkenazi’s behavior regarding
Iran’s nuclear program make clear, we have reached the point where due to the
subversion of senior officials, our elected leaders are denied the ability to
perform their primary function of defending the country.
This state of
affairs has simply got to end. The government and the Knesset need to put
a stop to it. At the end of the day, the ayatollahs, the sheikhs, the UN and the
anarchists are not our greatest challenge. Our leaders and our people can stand
up to them. Our greatest challenge is to stand up to unelected officials who
have taken it upon themselves to discredit the cause of victory, embrace
weakness, and destroy our sense of national