Over the 50 days of fighting in Operation Protective Edge, thousands of Israelis expressed their opinions regarding the functioning (or failure to function) of the government.
Military management text books define strategy as long-term fundamental objectives based on a leader’s vision that contain a comprehensive plan for implementation.
The main purpose of strategic planning is to manage complex combat moves in a number of battles that are taking place simultaneously, while successfully misleading the enemy until the fighting comes to a stop.
Carl von Clausewitz, the renowned military theorist from two centuries ago, claimed that the purpose of military strategy is to implement policy in such a way as to bring about an end to fighting.
Strategy and leadership in the modern age require a diplomatic-political vision so that the public will feel hopeful and want to join forces to carry out an agreed-upon plan.
In the modern age, almost every country has a vision, clear goals and a strategic work plan that it aims to implement. When everything works properly, governments succeed in implementing their policies.
Today, the State of Israel has no long-term strategy. This was true of 2010, 2000 and many years before that, too.
There is no plan for the longterm realization of the values the Jewish people holds dear and we forgot the meaning of our Declaration of Independence long ago. And in the absence of a clear vision, our leadership cannot formulate any military, strategic, security, economic, social or political policies. The Jewish mind has gotten used to preparing for individual events. We are great at moving fast, improvising and being courageous in stressful situations, but we are not great at showing professionalism and our leaders love to engage in demagoguery and spout empty political slogans.
Israel has not held any negotiations or talks with its Arab neighbors or the Palestinians for years as a result of this lack of long-term strategic planning. And because we are only reactive – and not proactive – the terrorist organization Hamas has succeeded in building a strong hold in Gaza, which has also resulted in Israel losing its legitimacy in the world.
The same thing happens in the fields of education and with the health system, infrastructure and the police force.
What can we do to change all this? First, we need to understand that a desire for change must come from the people. We need to amend the electoral system, which is weak, dilapidated and dysfunctional.
Party primaries are corrupt, vote contractors extract exorbitant fees and labor unions have enormous power and influence on election outcomes.
Voters are no longer grouped into categories such as Right or Left, Arabs or Jews. There needs to be a centralized body that is strong and stable which will build a long-term strategic policy that can promote peace, security and minority rights. Such a move, together with raising the threshold for political parties to join the Knesset to 8 percent of the vote, will help create a balanced and strong political system consisting of only three or four parties. It will help reduce the political blackmail that exists in our system. The government will be less costly and more efficiently run.
Second, we must dramatically improve our internal security. To increase deterrence, we must add massive funds to the police budget so that it can recruit additional personnel, as New York mayor Rudy Giulani successfully did two decades ago.
Third, the education system must be completely revamped. Funding must be transferred from the defense budget to education. Schools that do not teach the core curriculum should not receive any support and academic institutions should be subsidized in an effort to encourage excellence.
Fourth, budgets for the Defense and Foreign ministries should be reduced instead of increased each year. Current government policy is vacillatory, reactive and unreliable, and we need to change this. We need to show the Palestinians and the murderous Islamist organizations that we know how to negotiate seriously.
The cabinet needs to stop holding ad hoc meetings in which it reacts to recent events. Our leaders need to base their decisions on the interests of the state and not worry about what international committees of inquiry and anti-Semitic organizations will think about us.
Fifth, we must fight corruption.
Labor unions and monopolies must be dismantled.
We must stop wasting precious time and energy fighting unnecessary battles between the Left and the Right, between Arabs and Jews and between the religious and the secular.
Instead, we need to create an atmosphere in which we can discuss and deal with issues that affect the community as a whole.
The writer is a former brigadier- general who served as a division head in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Translated by Hannah Hochner.