Uri Avnery: Bad to Worse
- From Bad to Worse
by Uri Avnery
June 6, 2005
While Israel's new chief of staff, Air Force General Dan Halutz, was
assuming his new job, I stood with a group of demonstrators at the
gate of the General Staff building to protest against his appointment.
Our slogan was: "You have blood on your wings!" a reminder of his
remarks when the Air Force dropped a one-ton bomb on a residential
area in Gaza, in order to kill Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh. As will be
remembered, the bomb also killed 14 uninvolved people, including nine
When Halutz was asked at the time what he feels after dropping a bomb,
he replied: "A slight bump to the wing." He added that afterwards he
sleeps well. I don't think that a person who expresses himself like
that should be the supreme commander of our army.
That does not mean that his predecessor was much better. But there is
a rule: "Every bad officeholder can be replaced by a worse one."
(That reminds one of the Jewish joke about the mean rich man in the
ghetto. When he passed away, nobody could be found to say something
good about him, as required by custom. In the end, someone
volunteered: "We all know that he was an evil old man, a thief, and a
miser, but compared to his son he was an angel!")
Even before he took off his uniform, the dismissed chief of staff,
Moshe ("Bogy") Yaalon, shot off a salvo of declarations that disclose
both his character and his views. In an interview with the right-wing
Ha'aretz journalist Ari Shavit, he said:
"If we don't give the Palestinians more and more and more, there will
be a violent explosion. There is a high probability of a second
terrorist war. Kfar Sava [on the Israeli side of the Green line]
will be treated like Sderot. Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem too." Sderot was a
regular target for Qassam missiles.
"What will happen after the disengagement? Terrorist attacks of all
kinds, shooting, bombs, suicide bombers, mortars, Qassam rockets.
You left Gaza? Quiet. You will leave Judea and Samaria? There will be
quiet. You will leave Tel-Aviv? There will be real quiet. [The
Palestinian side] speaks about Safed and Haifa and Tel-Aviv."
"The paradigm of the Two States will not bring about stability. No!
[The Two-State solution] is not relevant. Not relevant. [The
Palestinian state] will undermine the State of Israel. From there, the
confrontation will go on."
"The State of Israel is ready to give the Palestinians an independent
Palestinian state, but the Palestinians are not ready to give us an
independent Jewish state. Every agreement you make will be the
starting point of the next irredenta. The next conflict. The next war."
"The establishment of a Palestinian state will lead at some stage to
war. Such a war can be dangerous to the State of Israel. The idea that
it is possible to set up a Palestinian state by 2008 and to achieve
stability is disconnected from reality and dangerous. Bush's vision
is disconnected from reality."
"[So what is the solution?] A much longer process, that will first of
all necessitate a revolution of values on the Palestinian side. I do
not see an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in my generation."
"Abu Mazen has not given up the Right of Return to come back to the
homes, to come back to the villages. This would mean that there will
be no Jewish state. Even Abu Mazen is not ready to accept a Jewish
On Palestinian democracy: "This is democracy? This is gangs!"
"There is a possibility that the Israeli army will be compelled [after
the disengagement] to return to the Gaza Strip."
The general outlook: "We are a society at war. Our sword must remain
unsheathed. Every day it must remain unsheathed. A society at war.
Without illusions. Without the false belief that we shall solve this,
one way or another. No, it will not be solved."
What does that remind one of? This is an almost exact copy of the
famous speech made by Moshe Dayan in May 1955 at the grave of Roi
Rotenberg. Moshe Yaalon was a toddler at that time. Like the Bourbon
monarchy in France, he has forgotten nothing and learned nothing.
One can view this discourse with cynicism. Yaalon is full of
resentment against Ariel Sharon and Shaul Mofaz, the two people who
pushed him out of office after only three years, instead of giving him
the customary fourth year.
Since the withdrawal from Gaza is the baby of Sharon and Mofaz, Yaalon
is trying to torpedo it.
But why stop there? One could cynically assert that Yaalon is
expressing the views of the army High Command, and the army has no
interest in peace. No human organization seeks a situation that will
make it superfluous. On the contrary, it yearns for circumstances
where it will be needed even more. Therefore, the higher officers'
corps is not really interested in a peaceful solution.
This is confirmed by the fact that after the publication of these
remarks, on the day Yaalon left office, he was treated to a huge
outpouring of support and affection from his colleagues. Nobody
contradicted him, not even anonymously.
However, the cynical approach does not lead to a deeper understanding.
This phenomenon goes beyond conscious personal interests.
The army educates for war and thinks only in terms of war. A real
general cannot even imagine himself in a state of peace. For many
years, no important Israeli general (with the honorable exceptions of
Amram Mitzna and Ami Ayalon) has made a declaration from which it
could be adduced that he really believes in peace.
That is serious for two reasons:
First, because Yaalon represents an elite group that has a huge
influence on Israeli society. Through the hundreds of retired
generals, the "generals' party" controls almost all the key political
and economic positions in the country, from the government, the
cabinet, and the political parties to most of the big public and
Second, because the chief of staff, the chief of the Mossad, and the
chief of the Security Service attend cabinet meetings, and their
political evaluations practically dictate the steps of the government.
The views of the chief of staff are not a private matter they have a
huge impact on the behavior of the entire state.
For three years, Yaalon was the chief of the Israeli army. During this
period, the West Bank has been covered with more than a hundred
settlement "outposts." One of the founders of these outposts testifies
in Haim Yavin's new TV series that all these outposts were put up
according to army directives, according to a military plan designed to
cut the West Bank into ribbons and thereby prevent the establishment
of a Palestinian state. Yaalon's declarations expose the ideological
background of this.
When the chief of staff believes that peace is impossible, now and in
the future, naturally all his advice to the cabinet advice with the
force of directives is influenced by this belief.
Yaalon's assertions lead to the conclusion that there is not and
cannot be a Palestinian partner. In this respect there is total
agreement between General Yaalon, General Ehud Barak, and General
Sharon. Abu Mazen, who is plotting to lead four million Palestinian
refugees back to their former homes and villages, certainly is no
partner. The conclusion: the disengagement must be unilateral, as
decided by Sharon. Another conclusion: There is no place for a
political process after the disengagement, since the Palestinians just
want "more and more and more."
Peace? Don't make Bogy laugh. Or Ehud. Or Arik, either.
For several weeks now, Yaalon has been busy with a farewell tour he
has organized for himself. He has gone from command post to command
post, from camp to camp, and everywhere had himself photographed from
every angle, always with the helmet on his head, the boots on his
feet, and the gun at his shoulder. Rather pathetic.
His subordinates and colleagues accorded him the adulation due to one
of the great Captains of History, the man who "vanquished terrorism."
Truth is, of course, that Yaalon was a very small captain. At best,
the Israeli army finished the "war" with a draw. It did not find an
answer to the mortar shells and the Qassam rockets; it was compelled
to accept an unofficial cease-fire it did not want. In a confrontation
between a mighty army and small underground organizations, a draw is a
big failure for the chief of staff. All in all, he failed like all his
predecessors, as his successor will also fail. As all generals around
the world have failed in similar situations.
As his last remarks have shown, Yaalon is a rather limited person,
with an average intellect and quite primitive views. In his
declarations, one can find all the stereotypes and all the myths of
120 years of Zionism.
There is not a gram of independent thought.
And that may well be the most depressing aspect of the affair.
While in office, the leaders of our army are shielded from all
critical appraisal. They are surrounded by a protective shield of
spittle-licking "military correspondents" and spokespersons duty-bound
to lie. They always appear omniscient, in possession of a superb
analytical mind, devoted with head and heart to the security and the
future of the state, having no other interest.
When they take off their uniforms and lose the military aura, they
reappear as quite different people. Recast as civilians, the former
chiefs of the army, the Mossad, and the Security Service show
themselves as very ordinary people, most of them mediocre, some rather
less. Occasionally there was one of serious caliber, but not a few
were plain stupid, and perhaps disturbed. It is quite frightening to
think that such people led the state and were responsible for matters
of life and death.
What is even more frightening is that Yaalon does indeed look like an
angel compared to his successor.
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