(photo credit: [file])
Israel still enjoys the image of a regional superpower even after the campaign in Lebanon, said former chief of general staff Moshe Ya'alon on Tuesday at the Bank of Jerusalem's annual Succot breakfast.
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Ya'alon attributed this residual image to the quality of Israel's human resources.
Nonetheless, he said, after 58 years as a Jewish independent sovereign state, Israel is still struggling for legitimacy and the right to exist, though the battlefield has shifted from the conventional arena of war.
Ya'alon explained that Israel's enemies are trying to avoid a head-on confrontation with the IDF in the conventional battlefield on which Israel has been victorious in the past. In the quest to break the spirit of Israel, its enemies are targeting the civilian population instead of military installations.
Not only has the battlefield changed but also the ideology. Whereas in the past, the ideology was of a national secular nature bent on keeping the Middle East purely Arab, without a Jewish state in its midst, since 1979 - following the success of the Iranian revolution, which had no connection with the Israel-Arab conflict - there has been a move towards a more religious ideology.
What led up to the campaign in Lebanon and the abduction of Israeli soldiers was all part of a global jihad according to Ya'alon.
"They believe that they can defeat the State of Israel through a war of attrition hitting civilians on a daily basis in order to break our spirit and Israel society's ability to live in this country," he said.
Countering Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's contention that Israel is the source of instability in the region, Ya'alon queried the connection to the Israel-Arab conflict of the Iran-Iraq War, the civil war in Lebanon, the mass massacre in Syria in the 1980s, the genocide in Darfur or the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
Yet, he said, anti-Israel propaganda continues to find expression in the international media.
Ya'alon instanced charges that in the second war in Lebanon Israel used excessive force and deliberately fired at civilians. Israel was blamed when Hizbullah was deliberately using civilians as human shields, said Ya'alon.
The success of the anti-Israel propaganda campaign hit him hard during his recent tour of American university campuses where he was called a war criminal and blamed for the "Jenin massacre."
Specific words with certain negative connotations are used to manipulate western minds and public opinion, he said, and lamented that "this manipulation also works in Israeli society. Some soldiers think that we're colonial occupiers."
This war of words, he opined, helped to generate the belief that territorial concessions might convince the Palestinians to stop fighting and to reach a peace settlement.
The Palestinian reality, he stated, is not the construction of a Palestinian state, but the destruction of the State of Israel.
Criticizing the behavior of Israel's leaders during negotiations with the Palestinians over the past decade, Ya'alon said, "I have witnessed wishful thinking and manipulation for political considerations."
On disengagement, he said: "We wanted to believe that withdrawing unilaterally would be perceived as Israel doing its part to end occupation but it was not. Instead it was perceived as weakness."
Yaalon said that Israeli public opinion has been manipulated on several occasions by spin doctors in what he called a "disengagement from truth and reality" for the golden calves of peace, security, the security fence and disengagement
Ya'alon is now chairman of the Center for Jewish Zionist Culture at Beit Morasha, and a fellow of the Institute for International and Middle Eastern Studies at the Shalem Center.
He had decided to join the Shalem Center in an attempt to produce strategies. "It's not good enough to say a paradigm doesn't work. You should offer an alternative solution."