I just came across an extremely interesting interview with former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe ("Boogie") Ya'alon. In the interview by Ha'aretz writer Ari Shavit, Ya'alon lambastes the political and military leadership in Israel and calls on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Minister of Defence 'Amir Peretz and Chief of Staff Dan Halutz to resign. Some of the revelations that Ya‘alon makes in the interview include that:
- He hated serving in the army; and
- That he orders half-pita servings of falafel for lunch;
- That he advised Sharon to enter into negotiations with Bashar al-Asad in 2003, but that Sharon "preferred" to go ahead with the “disengagement” from the Gaza Strip. Ya'alon implies that it would have been better to ignore the Palestinians and to make peace with Syria or to at least open channels of communication between Asad and Israel so as to create cracks in the alliance between Iran and Syria. [Ya‘alon’s predisposition towards negotiations with the Syrians reflects a common division in Israeli policy circles. Many Israeli policy makers are divided over whether it is preferable to make peace with Syria first, and then with the Palestinians, or vice versa. Since the failure of Barak to come to an agreement with Asad Sr. (or Asad Sr.’s failure – it depends on what you read), the Palestinian track has generally been favoured.];
- That he appreciates the fact that Israel’s economic stability remains central to its national security and that he continues to oppose an increase in the military budget;
- That he believes that it is impossible to uproot Hizbullah or to crush the organization, because of its popularity among Lebanon’s Shi‘a. Ya‘alon asserted that he still stands by his now infamous claim before the war, according to which Israel had to wait and let Hizbullah’s rockets corrode on their own. In the interview, he argues that only combined diplomatic and military pressure would succeed in eliminating the threat posed by Hizbullah by turning the organization into an actor perceived as illegitimate by Lebanese themselves. (A recent piece published by Amir Tahery in the Wall Street Journal actually suggests that the IDF offensive achieved this objective. Tahery argues that the war has succeeded in alienating many Shi‘a from the organization and that most Lebanese don’t consider it to have won the confrontation);
- That he had prepared a plan to fight Hizbullah using IDF ground forces that would act like guerrilla forces and would conquer strategic hilltops in southern Lebanon without tanks and without using the main roads. Ya‘alon claimed that IDF intelligence was aware of the dangers posed by Hizbullah’s bunkers, mines and its anti-tank missiles.
Shavit’s description of Ya‘alon, who serves as a foil for the lazy, corrupted and “Levantine(???)” Israeli, expresses a general malaise in Israeli society about eroding norms and slipping moral standards. The exact same themes about the need to restore the old values of hard work and of Zionist idealism are present in the discourses of people like Avishay Braverman, the brilliant former president of Ben-Gurion University who joined the Labour Party, ran for a seat in the Knesset and embraced ‘Amir Peretz (no small feat for a former World Bank economist!) only to find himself betrayed by the latter and relegated to the backbenches. I think it’s probably about time for Israel to give its Ya‘alons, its Ayalons and its Bravermans a chance.
השנה שלו במכון מחקר בוושינגטון לא ממש שינתה אותו. הוא נותן ליושרה הגאה והנוקשה שלו לומר את דברה כמו פעם. שהרי כל כולו כמו פעם. כל כולו הקשיחות הערכית הבלתי מתפשרת של בן קרית חיים. בן מפא"י ההיסטורית. בנם של אשכנזים עניים, ניצולי שואה פועליים, ששלחו את בנם להתיישבות, לביטחון ולבניין הארץ. להגשמה חסרת פניות וחסרת חוש הומור וחסרת קריצות וקומבינות
His year at a policy research institute in Washington has not really changed him. He lets his proud and obstinate integrity speak as he always has. He has not changed one bit, in fact. He is still the same person with the same rigid, uncompromising values […] the son born in Qiryat Hayim to poor Ashkenazi blue collar workers who were Holocaust survivors and who sent their son [on a mission] to build the country and to defend it […] and on a mission to realize his vision without a sense of humour and without [secret deals] and “kombinot”.