Voter beware!

Fast-tracking star officers to political prominence – and then basking in their military glory – seems a requisite for parties in our arena.

Yoav Galant  (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Yoav Galant
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
No sooner were the first vague reports about an air strike against Hezbollah targets in Syria broadcast than former IDF chief-of-staff aspirant Yoav Galant speculated that the timing of the operation may have been linked to the current election campaign.
This notably was when Israel’s official policy was to maintain silence. Galant, though, could apparently not keep mum. This may have to do with the fact that he has officially entered the political fray as Moshe Kahlon’s handpicked No. 2 on the Koolanu Knesset candidates list.
Galant broadly implied in an interview with Channel 2 – merely hours after Hezbollah and Iranian honchos were hit – that “from incidents in the past you can learn that sometimes there is timing that is not unrelated to the topic of elections.”
The insinuation spread like wildfire, was quoted widely in Israeli media, and from there it in no time made its way to the international press where it was given avid resonance.
This wasn’t the case a day later. Hardly any foreign media quoted Galant when he appeared to backtrack somewhat by stressing that he had resorted to a double negative and that “I didn’t say that and don’t intend to say something like that. I just said that sometimes someone can bring that up in their mind. I don’t bring that up in my mind.”
Journalists, however, are not mind readers. Political hopefuls should possess the elementary skill of phrasing themselves clearly, without later needing to furnish excuses and elucidations for what was meant versus the words actually uttered.
The plain fact of the matter is that Galant had done Israel harm and that his initial statement was pointed to with alacrity overseas. His tortuous post factum rationalizations cannot undo the damage wrought. The proverbial pebble was tossed into the pond, caused ripples and cannot be retrieved.
Even the government’s most vehement detractors, such as Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni – who are challenging Benjamin Netanyahu for the premiership – said that “Israel’s security isn’t a matter for electioneering trickery.” If they privately thought otherwise, they were astute enough not to injure their electoral prospects by committing the sort of faux pas that Galant had.
To be fair, it is not only Galant. His statement was not unusual in the context of Israel’s former military hotshots.
Fast-tracking star officers to political prominence – and then basking in their military glory – seems a requisite for parties in our arena.
The aim presumably is to lend authority to the party’s claim to be the ultimate arbiter of what’s good for our national security. The public is told that it has whom to count on and the-generals-turned-politicians couldn’t agree more.
Their know-it-all swagger is one of the most infuriating traits of Israel’s career-fixated ex-generals. Often they babble in omniscient tones, telling the clueless plebeians what’s happening out there and – just as often – what’s going to happen.
Two years ago, then-Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich, feeling the need for a pivotal voter-getting ex-general, came up with ex-OC Military Intelligence Uri Sagi. For years, Sagi has been bewailing “Israel’s failure” to cede the Golan Heights to the Assad clan. His oft-repeated refrain is that this was “a huge historical miss, a mistake of massive strategic proportions.” Even the bloody upheavals in Syria didn’t suffice to change his tune.
In his favor it should be noted that he withdrew his political candidacy after two weeks.
A few years before that embarrassment, Labor enlisted former OC Navy and ex-Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon. This, despite his December 20, 2005, appearance on Channel 1’s Erev Hadash program, shortly before the pivotal Palestinian Authority elections. There he haughtily pooh-poohed predictions that Hamas (having been remarkably empowered by the disengagement from the Gaza Strip) would triumph.
Ayalon stated smugly to interviewer Dan Margalit: “I am telling you already now, and you can write my words down – Hamas won’t win. It’s not because it can’t but because it doesn’t want to.”
This is all gallingly archetypical. There are numerous more examples on both the Left and the Right. Former top brass superciliously expound, endlessly opine and applaud the commanding preeminence of their analysis and prescience.
It is time the electorate adopts the motto of caveat emptor – buyer beware.