Monday, August 20, 2012

Let the elected officials do their job

Let the elected officials do their job

Ze'ev Jabotinsky

The current atmosphere in Israel is comparable to that experienced by Israelis in the three weeks leading up the 1967 Six-Day War. The public was confused and frightened by the growing threat posed by Arab armies on three fronts. As a child, I also experienced this fear.

In the summer of 1963, Levi Eshkol established his government and served as both prime minister and defense minister. As soon as he entered the Defense Ministry, he saw that Israel was being threatened with destruction on all fronts simultaneously. He called in the General Staff and gave them the mission of meeting this challenge head on, and asked the army generals to tell him what was vitally needed to fulfill this mission. Eshkol made sure to equip the army with everything it needed so that the mission would succeed, even when the country went into a deep recession in 1966.

During the build up to the Six-Day War, when the reservists were already called up, a public campaign was launched to remove Eshkol from the Defense Ministry and appoint Moshe Dayan in his place. Dayan made cynical use of the public's lack of awareness of the army's preparations and didn't stop the campaign, which was supported by the Haaretz newspaper. The campaign was successful and Dayan replaced Eshkol as defense minister just one week before the war started.

In my honest opinion, Levi Eshkol was the best prime minister Israel has ever seen because he identified the threats and dangers in plenty of time and got the country ready to face an existential threat. The results of that war are mostly to his credit, while we paid the price for the terrible choice of Dayan six years later with the Yom Kippur War.

Some time later, then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin decided to attack the Iraqi reactor — going against the positions of all the military heads and the leader of the opposition, Shimon Peres. Here too historical perspective helps us to see who was right, and who until today clings pathetically to the opposing view.

And today too, there are those trying to accrue political capital at the expense of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who have worked tirelessly for almost two decades to prepare Israel for the situation we are in today. Today too, the campaign against them is being waged by the same media. Shaul Mofaz, the leader of a party that is finished, leads the chatterers. Behind him shuffled up Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On, who came out with some preposterous proposals about Knesset approvals for a military operation. Shelly Yachimovich, the leader of the Labor Party, is actually the one acting with proper decorum on this issue, further highlighting the wretchedness of Mofaz and Gal-On. Attempts to earn political points by gnawing away at the Israeli public's ability to face existential challenges while bolstering the enemy must be condemned absolutely.

They are also joined by the defense establishment retirees, who are no longer in power and no longer privy to updated briefings. They too must stop depressing the public. If they have anything to say, they should say it in closed forums. If their opinion is not accepted, they should keep quite in public because the damage caused by their chatter — both by strengthening the enemy and by weakening Israel — is far greater that any possible benefit they could possibly see.

The situation in the region is about to change drastically — not because of the prime minister or the defense minister — but because of the Iranians. It is likely that this change will come at a high cost to us, whether through action or inaction. This is therefore the time that we must all avoid getting in the way of those that the public entrusted to make this fateful decision when it went to democratic elections some three years ago.