Misplaced priorities

Constructive criticism is legitimate – and even vital – in a vibrant democracy like ours, but let’s make sure to keep our priorities straight as we work together for the betterment of the State of Israel.

May 25, 2013 22:54
4 minute read.
IDF reserve soldiers drill, March 7, 2013.

IDF reserve soldiers drill 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)

Reading the Israeli newspapers and online news sites these past few weeks, one might fall under the impression that our country is located somewhere in northern Europe, rather than in the extremely volatile Middle East. The front pages have been so full of stories about real estate and cleaning expenses that the latest geopolitical developments have often been relegated to the inner pages of the newspapers.

It is apparent that our political rivals do not have any real criticism to level against this government’s diplomatic and defense policies, and therefore have resorted to cheap gossip as a tool to try to lessen our political standing.

Simply put, this will not work. Israelis are a way too savvy and politically aware breed to fall for such shenanigans.

Let us take moment to review some of the real issues that the Defense Ministry, the prime minister and the whole government are spending countless hours on.

Up north, the Assad regime in Syria has continued to slowly dissolve, leaving many dangerous unknowns before us. It is clear that few of the rebel groups fighting there can be counted on to become Israeli allies at any point. Next door in Lebanon Hezbollah continues to gain strength and the real possibility exists it will acquire “game changing” weaponry either from Assad himself or as a result of the chaos in Syria.

In Gaza, Hamas is busy rearming after the blow they received in Operation Pillar of Defense, and is of course not softening its stance negating the right of the State of Israel to even exist.

Further south, we are cautiously watching the latest developments in Egypt. While Egypt remains one of our most important allies in the Middle East, monitoring the results of the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is something that demands our constant attention.

Finally, in the east, we of course cannot rest for a minute as we closely watch Iran’s race toward a nuclear arsenal.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have made it abundantly clear in every possible forum that Israel cannot allow a situation where our citizens are threatened by ayatollahs armed with a nuclear bomb.

At the same time, as we are dealing with these most sensitive security matters, we are also in the process of passing a complicated and at points even painful budget. We are painstakingly working to ensure that both the fiscal and social needs of our citizens are met while at the same time ensuring our armed forces retain the qualitative edge that is vital for the defense of our country.

The good news is that the responsible and prudent measures taken every day by our ministry and the government are yielding important results.

Our northern borders remain safe and secure. Life in our southern communities has returned to normal – something that seemed almost impossible when rockets were raining down on a daily basis.

On the international scene our policies are also bearing some fruit. Our American and European allies are on the same page as us when it comes to the situation in Syria and we hope this remains true when it comes to Iran.

Regarding the Palestinians, the world community now understands that the impediment to negotiations is not the settlements, but rather a basic unwillingness on the part of the other side to simply sit down and discuss with us practical ways to improve the lives of ordinary Israelis and Palestinians.

Most importantly, life in Israel is going on as normal despite the regional upheaval.

The reason for this short review is not to claim victory or give ourselves a virtual pat on the back. Rather, I hope to remind our political rivals and the media elites of the unique nature of the threats and challenges my colleagues and I face every day. Yes, it is true that during a time when we are asking all Israelis to make painful economic sacrifices it would behoove those of us in public service to conduct ourselves in a modest manner as well.

But at the same time it is important that we not lose focus on the issues that are truly important to all of us.

The Defense Ministry and the prime minister, together with all our brave men and women in the IDF and security services, are doing all we can to keep the people of Israel safe. Constructive criticism is legitimate – and even vital – in a vibrant democracy like ours, but let’s make sure to keep our priorities straight as we work together for the betterment of the State of Israel.

Member of Knesset Danny Danon is the deputy defense minister and author of Israel: The Will to Prevail.

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