Postscript: Our own worst enemy

Somehow, no matter how hard our friends try, we always seem to be our own worst enemy.

Netanyahu and Obama in Washington  (photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
Netanyahu and Obama in Washington
(photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
The whole world and the universe around it have been preoccupied these past weeks with Israel and Iran. President Barack Obama’s speech to the 14,000 AIPAC delegates in Washington on Sunday has been analyzed and counter-analyzed to the last comma. Pundits, real mavens on the subject, speak about payloads and missions on chat shows like they were discussing golf scores. Everyone is focused on Iran, and everyone knows better than everyone else.
I, for my part, have been reading as much as I can on the yet unreleased state comptroller’s findings into the Harpaz Affair. I don’t know if the Israel Air Force can strike Iran or not. I don’t know if Obama is good for Israel or not. I don’t know if a duck quacks or not.
What I do know from what I have read, however, is that only a miracle can save a country where the chief of staff does not speak to the commander of the southern front; the defense minister does not speak to the chief of staff; and the bureau of the defense minister and that of the chief of staff declare themselves to be in a state of war and start collecting black (dirty) intelligence on each other and their bosses. This when they are supposed to be dealing with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas and are responsible for handling a massive segment of the national budget, not to mention for the lives of our children.
The litany of sorrows portrayed by the state comptroller’s report into this sorry affair pale, however, when added to the confessions of Uzi Arad, the former national security adviser, about his unhappy years in the Prime Minister’s Office, and the revelations that have followed the recent mass resignations in the Prime Minister’s Office after Binyamin Netanyahu was forced to fire his most trusted and senior aide for inappropriate behavior.
Here we see infighting between the prime minister’s military attaché and the head of the National Security Council and viperous attacks on each other. Instead of cooperating, the heads of these two functions saw each other as mortal enemies, spied on each other and played power games by calling security meetings behind each other’s backs and whispering poison into the ears of their superiors.
We see how the head of the secret service was coopted to humiliate, intimidate and ultimately get rid of one of the prime minister’s most trusted advisers, through allegedly deviously planted fictitious charges, mainly, it transpires, because the man had fallen out of favor with the prime minister’s wife. The reports generally make Machiavelli look innocent when compared to the goings on in the prime minister’s inner circle, and reveal a security community totally preoccupied with defeating each other, and not the enemy.
It would be trite of me to say be worried, but I say so wholeheartedly. Stop looking at the faults in Obama’s speech, or listening to the business-class-class analyze what the Israeli army can or cannot do, and look at the people we have making the decisions. They all deserve a good kick in the backside. The chutzpah of it all: the chief of staff’s bureau spying on the defense minister, and the army’s representative in the Prime Minister’s Office dedicated to undermining the National Security Council coming of age as required and deemed by law.
How else to look at this other than as an attempt by the military to subvert democracy, to take over command from those charged by the electorate with exercising it? As for the secret service being used as an instrument of political intrigue, who knows where this could end and what blind path this could lead us up?
The clear lesson in all this is that something is very rotten at the top of the pyramid. Power has become more important than country. A leader sets the tone. If he lets it be known that he is open to intrigue, likes gossip, can be swayed, he sets ground rules for the type of mind-numbing behavior that has come to light in recent weeks. If he sees himself as a team leader, projects that those under him are expected to play together for the benefit of all, then that is what he will get.
Obviously, from what we see, those serving on Netanyahu’s team have a long way to go, as does their captain. Let’s hope that the game lasts long enough for them to realize they are kicking into their own goal, our goal, before it is yet again too late for anything but recriminations.
Somehow, no matter how hard our friends try, we always seem to be our own worst enemy. Until now we have managed to get away with it. But with the stakes having gone nuclear, the rules have changed, and we can only pray that those at the top have realized it.
The writer is a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies and the author of The Anatomy of Israel’s Survival, the winner of the 2011 National Jewish Book Award.