Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS) issued a letter to Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu warning him that he must save the IDF from “disintegration” at the hands of his coalition partners.
CIS chairman Maj.-Gen. (res.) Matan Vilnai wrote that he was approaching Netanyahu “in the name of the well over 400 CIS members, all former senior commanders in the IDF, Mossad, Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] and Israel Police, as well as former heads of Israel’s diplomatic missions, who led generations of troops on battlefields and fought for Israel on the international stage.”
Vilnai called on Netanyahu “to protect the IDF from those who sow divisions between soldiers and their commanders. Israeli commanders have always been guided by the values encapsulated in the call ‘follow me!’ which stands for personal example in leading to mission completion and victory.
“Recently, statements by politicians who are slated to serve in your government have challenged the judgment of commanders and incited against them. In so doing, they have compromised IDF discipline and chain of command,” cautioned Vilnai.
The letter reads, “If not stopped, this will end in internal divisions and conflict between officers and troops, insubordination, anarchy and ultimately, the disintegration of the IDF as an effective fighting force... such a trend – of declining trust between officers and soldiers and between the IDF and Israeli society - serves no one but our enemies.
“Familiar as you are with Israel’s security forces, you are fully aware of the importance of mutual trust to the IDF internal cohesion. Surely you appreciate the distinction between legitimate criticism of the IDF – something to be valued in a democracy – and fomenting antagonism within its ranks,” said CIS.
“Familiar as you are with Israel’s security forces, you are fully aware of the importance of mutual trust to the IDF internal cohesion. Surely you appreciate the distinction between legitimate criticism of the IDF – something to be valued in a democracy – and fomenting antagonism within its ranks.”CIS
IDF soldier attacks left-wing activist in Hebron
The letter came after a recent incident in which an IDF soldier illegally beat a left-wing activist in Hebron after he felt provoked by the activist, but without the activist having put him in any visible danger.
The soldier was sentenced by his commander, Lt.-Col. Aviran Alfasi, a decorated battle veteran, to 10 days in prison, a decision strongly supported by IDF chief Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi.
Following the sentence, a number of right-wing officials who are likely to join the incoming government – most notably incoming national security minister (with partial responsibility for Border Police) Itamar Ben-Gvir – supported the soldier and slammed the commander. They also criticized Kohavi.
Vilnai did not limit the plea to protect IDF commanders from Netanyahu’s coalition allies at the policy level, but got more personal.
In more imploring language, CIS wrote, “You, who lost a family member in defense of our country, know well how destructive such statements can be, as they spread unhindered among the rank and file.... Public support is a prerequisite for the unity and resilience of the IDF. No politician should be allowed to undermine it.”
According to Vilnai, “Ignoring these challenges, allowing continued injection of partisan norms and considerations to the conduct and chain of command of our security establishment that must be completely insulated from them, endangers our national security.”
Finally, Vilnai unsheathed a not-so-veiled threat.
“The least of the inevitable consequences will be a commission of inquiry seeking to identify causes and perpetrators of this foreseeable disaster,” he warned.
Netanyahu already faces potential political harm from two commissions of inquiry that started under the previous government, with the Submarine Affair Case 3000 inquiry delving into whether he mishandled national security decisions regarding the Israel Navy.