Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The IDF should be outside of political debate, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.
“You can attack the minister or deputy minister, but not the representatives of the IDF who aren’t even allowed to answer. Leave the officers and soldiers be,” Liberman said. “Anyone who has complaints should bring them to the political echelon.”
Liberman criticized what he called “attempts to drag the army into political arguments about [2014’s] Operation Protective Edge,” pointing out that the army is implementing the security cabinet’s decisions.
The defense minister also criticized those who have revisited the history of the IDF and undermined widely accepted narratives of heroism.
A recent feature on Channel 2 News, for example, said that the “Zvika Force” in the Yom Kippur War, in which Zvika Greengold, the commander of a lone tank, staved off a Syrian attack, was a myth. Greengold, currently the appointed mayor of Ofakim, vehemently denied the report, as did Liberman on Monday.
“We’ve seen nasty attempts to twist history and harm our symbols and basic narrative here, like the Harel Brigade’s contribution [in the War of Independence] to Jerusalem’s liberation or the story of the ‘Zvika Force’ or the fighters of the Lamed Hey [35 massacred Palmach fighters]. All of these things put together are an attempt to harm the greatest common denominator of Israeli society, the IDF,” Liberman stated.
At the committee meeting, which was closed to the press, Liberman said the Palestinian Authority is preparing for “the day after Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas].”
According to Liberman, Abbas has a number of diplomatic initiatives planned for 2017 and is not working to improve the Palestinians’ economic situation. It is in Israel’s interest to improve the Palestinians’ economic situation, but the PA refuses to discuss the matter, he said.
Former defense minister MK Amir Peretz (Zionist Union) criticized Liberman, saying that he is trying to circumvent Abbas while rewarding Hamas.
“Israel should not be appointing kings, because we’ve failed at it in the past. This also sends a message that those who use violence against Israel will get the option of benefits, which can encourage terrorism,” Peretz argued.
Liberman responded that he is not appointing kings and that Palestinian businessmen told him that Abbas’s departure would be the best thing for the Palestinian economy. The defense minister also referred to his “carrot and stick” policy of granting benefits to Palestinian towns in the West Bank from which no terrorists have come in recent years.
In Gaza, the defense minister said, Hamas has 26,000 fighters and 40,000 bureaucrats to whom it pays salaries, and the terrorist organization is building up its force in preparation for moving the fighting to Israeli territory in the next round.
At the same time, Hamas is trying to restrain groups in Gaza from attacking, which Liberman said is a result of Israel’s new policy to respond massively to every rocket attack. The government plans to invest NIS 3.5b. in protecting towns near the Gaza border, he added.
Liberman also said Hamas is intentionally not solving problems in Gaza so that the international community would get involved. For example, it is preventing a water treatment facility donated by the World Bank from being hooked up to electricity that Israel offered to provide. Over 90% of the water in Gaza is not clean enough for drinking, he said.
Liberman also lamented expected defense budget cuts, saying it is hard to keep career officers in the IDF, especially those working in cyber security, when they are making NIS 6,000-6,500 a month but can earn much more in the private sector. He also expressed opposition to the planned shortening of mandatory IDF service in order to save money, but said he will respect agreements made before he was appointed to his position.
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