Once again, the IDF finds itself the epicenter of public criticism. This began long before social media platforms were flooded with clips of Israeli women reprimanding paratroopers who – unwisely – were sent to back up police officers enforcing COVID-19-related restrictions at protest sites. The issue this time is the national disappointment at the inability of the most powerful military in the Middle East to defeat the coronavirus. The Israeli public can stomach with many things – political considerations getting mixed up in professional decisions, paralyzing levels of bureaucracy, dysfunctional public system, and even injustice in the distribution of the country’s resources. But failures of the IDF, the people’s army, are too bitter a pill to swallow for a people used to calling in its generals to put out any and all burning fires.
“Let the IDF limp along” (a play on the popular slogan, “let the IDF win”) was the headline of an article aimed at explaining the failure of the Alon Command Center set up by the IDF Home Front Command to help break the chains of infection. “Why has the IDF not (yet) defeated the virus?” was the query of another article on the same subject. And so, alongside the devastating harm inflicted by the pandemic, we are seeing secondary damage in the eating away of the public’s trust in the IDF – the last state institution that still enjoys the trust of the Israeli public.