One of the long-honored tenets of Israeli society has been the sacrosanct status of the IDF.
That’s not to say that criticism of the army and its various security operations aren’t part of the fabric of the country’s ethos. Look no further than the Agranat Commission, set up in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War to investigate the IDF’s and the government’s unpreparedness for the two-pronged attack by Egypt and Syria. Or, more recently, the Winograd Commission, formed to probe the military and the government’s actions during the 2006 Lebanon War.
But both of those situations were officially sanctioned inquiries conducted professionally to reach conclusions, make adjustments, and ensure that mistakes were corrected for the future.
They have little in common with the outrageous, unjustified, and politically motivated attacks that have recently been directed toward Israel’s military leaders – not by enemies like Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah or Iran’s ayatollahs, but rather by members of Israel’s ruling coalition and even the son of the country’s prime minister.
IDF commanders under attack by Israeli politicians
Yair Netanyahu, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s outspoken son, shared a post earlier this week that called IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi “the biggest failure and most destructive chief of staff in history.”
The younger Netanyahu later deleted the post, but not before it went viral, generating numerous enthusiastic expressions of support.
Hours later, the prime minister tweeted a brief statement: “Israel faces great challenges, and as prime minister of Israel, I work day and night together with the defense minister, the chief of staff, senior IDF officials, and the security forces to together ensure Israel’s security in any situation.”
The next day, Regional Cooperation Minister David Amsalem jumped into the fray, attacking Halevi and air force chief Maj.-Gen. Tomer Bar for not tamping down on the reservists who are refusing to serve due to the government’s judicial reforms and calling the movement a “rebellion within the army.”
“It is on their watch,” Amsalem said. “It will be noted in the pages of history who was the chief of staff and who was the commander of the air force – and what happened. The historians will write it down.”
Following those statements, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant were put in the absurd position of having to defend Israel’s senior security officials.
“The prime minister and defense minister reject any attack on senior security establishment officials and fully back the commanders and soldiers of the IDF, who are working day and night for the security of Israel,” they wrote, adding that they were “working together in close cooperation... to ensure the security of the state and its citizens.”
Gallant urged both the politicians and the IDF reservists to “take the IDF out of the political discussion. It is the protective tool that gives life to the people of Israel.”
Opposition leader Yair Lapid defended the reservist refusal movement and attacked Amsalem.
“The commanders of the IDF and its fighters are not rebels, they are wonderful Israeli patriots who keep us alive,” Lapid said, turning the tables on Amsalem and calling his attack “rebellion and betrayal.”
Even President Isaac Herzog was forced to respond to the unprecedented attack on the army’s leaders, urging everyone to “calm down.”
“These are statements that harm the strength of the IDF,” Herzog said. “We have a strong army and an excellent chief of staff.... We all owe them gratitude and affection for their activities to protect the security of the country.”
The challenge posed by reservists’ refusal to volunteer for service due to the government’s judicial reform plans is a serious one. It should be discussed in a serious and reasoned manner, as was done Wednesday at a subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
But these sinister attacks on the IDF’s commanders must stop. Casting blame on the higher echelon of Israel’s military services – individuals who have devoted their lives to defending the country – is a disgrace. We expect it from Israel’s enemies, not from government ministers or those close to the prime minister.