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Benny Gantz has awoken from his post-election slumber..(Photo by: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Above the Fold: Politics and generals
The Israeli army is the most revered institution in Israel, and IDF leaders have – over and over again – proven themselves capable of defending the state and defending her against all odds.
Have you ever wondered why so many generals are vying for political leadership in Israel?

One former general cum present contender is the most decorated of all of Israel’s generals. Another was head of the Mossad, still another the head of internal security and, of course, the general who was also IDF chief of staff. One party has at least three generals on their list. There are so many berets thrown into the political ring right now that it’s hard to keep track.

Ostensibly, the argument is twofold. First, these former generals want to protect Israel, the country they love and to which they have dedicated their careers and, quite literally, their lives. And second, they disagree with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s point of view on safety and security. But that’s not really true, it’s more spin than honest assessment.
The truth is that these generals want to trade in their name recognition for political power and – this is the crucial point – for ultimate control.

The Israeli army is the most revered institution in Israel, and IDF leaders have – over and over again – proven themselves capable of defending the state and defending her against all odds. They have protected the young men and women in their charge. They have instilled great character and initiative in young adults and transformed them in to great contributors for their country. They have earned the rank and are deserving of the respect accorded to IDF generals by the citizens of Israel and by the world.

And still – perhaps because of all this – they want more.

In Israel, the army is the perfect spring board into politics. Today’s array of political hopefuls are following in the footsteps of their illustrious predecessors. Three of the twelve prime ministers in the young history of the country have been were generals – Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak. Dozens of politicians and government ministers, over the years, traded on their notoriety as war heroes. No one can forget Moshe Dayan and Ezer Weizmann.

The generals vying for leadership against Netanyahu in the upcoming September election all claim to know him. They claim to know his weakness and, as part of their campaigns, promise that they will be able to take him down – as if Netanyahu has an Achilles heel.

No such weapon was used in the April election. This type of campaigning is a new weapon in their arsenal against the sitting prime minister. It’s all about tactics, and if there’s one thing former generals know about, it’s tactics.

Campaigning against Netanyahu is not easy for any contender, certainly not for these generals. In that respect, the generals – each and every one – are interchangeable. While they may disagree with the prime minister about a two-state solution or about how harsh to be with Iran, they are on the same page on most of these topics. The differences are subtle and nuanced, not critical or even strikingly obvious.

At one point or another, they all worked for Bibi and now they want to oust him. They think that their IDF experience will win over the masses by luring the voting populace away from a leader they perceive to be a demagogue and a danger to Israel. At least, that is the campaign picture they are painting.

NETANYAHU DOES have a weakness: He is his own worst enemy. The prime minister did not anticipate the extent of the legal proceedings against him. All of the charges in these cases will not simply go away. Call it ego, call it hubris, it is a trait he shares with those who wish to rule and to lead, and certainly with the generals competing for political prominence and his position.

But it seems that the voters were not and are not affected by the charges nor by the possibility that their prime minster, the longest seated prime minister in the history of the country, might be guilty. And if that sentiment holds strong until September, the generals and all the others who want to take Netanyahu down have no secret weapon. They can hope that Bibi will implode, they can wish for him to say something or do something that will toss the election, but right now, that’s highly unlikely.

If his popularity did not fail during the course of the April election when he was actually indicted, why think that it will happen during the September election? With no new charges pending, it would be unlikely that he can be hurt worse than he was before. Remember, it was not the voters who prevented Netanyahu from carrying on as prime minister, it was the coalition partners – or lack thereof.

And yet, each of these generals want to be the person to replace him. Unlike run-of-the-mill politicians who are in the game of politics for the long term, most of these generals are in it for the quick hit. They are fighting a battle, not strategizing for a war.

At this stage in the game, I would recommend that the generals and everyone else – the Avigdor Libermans, the Naftali Bennetts, the Benny Gantzs – focus on figuring out how to align with Netanyahu or how to oppose him. Don’t plan on deposing Netanyahu just yet. Work in tandem or work in opposition. Don’t try to oust him.

Netanyahu has thought this through. He has calculated that in a second election, Israeli voters would lose interest in Blue and White, his biggest competition in April. He is convinced that there will be a rubber band effect and Blue and White will drop in popularity because they have not shown the people why a vote for them meant anything. He anticipates that voters will return home to Likud.

He might never have reached the level of IDF general, but Bibi Netanyahu knows how to command and how to lead. Come September, the general hopefuls will learn a lesson in politics from a master. Watch and learn.
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