Analysis: Security credentials lose their luster in political campaigns

Former IDF chiefs of staff no longer guaranteed second career in the upper echelons of politics as socioeconomic considerations become priority.

Kadima chairman MK Shaul Mofaz (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Kadima chairman MK Shaul Mofaz
Tension is rising between Israel and Hezbollah, which has vowed revenge for the killing of a senior member of the terrorist group and an Iranian general. Plans for an Iranian-backed military base in southern Syria that would be used to fire rockets at Israel have been uncovered.
The focus of the Israeli media has shifted from France to northern Israel, and lead headlines in newspapers about the March 17 election have lately been few and far between.
So one would think former IDF chiefs of staff and other top generals would be top commodities in the final days in which parties compose their lists ahead of the January 29 deadline.
But that conventional wisdom has been proven incorrect.
If former IDF chiefs of staff Ehud Barak, Shaul Mofaz, Dan Halutz and Gabi Ashkenazi are waiting by the phone for offers to run for the next Knesset, chances are it’s not going to happen.
An appointment as chief of staff used to come with a guaranteed second career in the upper echelons of politics as soon as they remove their military uniform and put on a tie. But as Israel has shifted its focus to socioeconomic and other issues, security credentials have been losing their luster.
A look at what has happened in political parties over the past week alone proves the point.
Labor rejected Mofaz and decided that its top security candidate for Knesset would be Omer Bar-Lev, a former head of the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit whose top rank was colonel. The party recruited the former head of Military Intelligence, Amos Yadlin, to serve as its “candidate for defense minister” in the event that Labor forms a government and keeps the portfolio, two scenarios that may or may not happen.
But Yadlin will not be an MK.
In a letter to trustees of the Institute for National Security Studies that he heads, which Channel 1 revealed Tuesday, Yadlin wrote that his leave of absence from the think tank would only be until March 17, “after which, contingent upon the election’s results, we’ll see what’s next.”
The Likud demoted former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter from a realistic slot on the party’s list in favor of Deputy Transportation, Science and Technology Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who instead of serving in the army did national service as a Jewish Agency emissary in Atlanta.
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett was rumored to be saving a reserved slot on the party’s list for a general like former IDF Ground Forces commander Yiftah Ron-Tal.
But Bennett has said he does not intend to change the list elected in last week’s primary.
Yisrael Beytenu replaced its top security figure, retiring Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, a former deputy police inspector- general, with no one with any security credentials at all.
Meretz used to make sure it had a security figure on its list. But since former colonel Ran Cohen left in 2009, it hasn’t bothered. Former MK Avshalom Vilan, who served in the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, did not win a realistic slot in Monday’s primary.
The only parties with former line general are the Likud with former IDF chief Moshe Ya’alon, and Koolanu with former OC Southern Command Yoav Galant. Yesh Atid’s Elazar Stern was a major-general, who headed the IDF’s human resources department.
Meanwhile, socioeconomic figures like the former head of the anti-poverty authority Eli Alalouf are being plucked like ripe fruit. Yisrael Beytenu decided to promote its top socioeconomic voice, MK Orly Levy-Abecassis, to No. 2 on its list.
So no matter how tense things are getting on potential military fronts, when it comes to political battlefields, generals have become an afterthought.