Sunday, September 30, 2007

Israel is much closer to civil war than most people realize.

Olmert and Livni have essentially committed Israel to the Geneva Accords. Unlike the tin man and the scarecrow, who ultimately achieved self-awareness because they wished to overcome their flaws, Olmert doesn't think he needs a heart and Livni doesn't think she needs a brain. They only want love and they're looking for it in all the wrong places.

When it comes to implementing whatever agreement they come to, however, they will discover they have no army behind them. The scars of the disengagement and Amona are still very raw. Sharon pulled off the disengagement because he had earned a certain amount of credit and skeptical soldiers could persuade themselves that he must have known something they didn't. Olmert has zero credit and the aftermath of the disengagement -- both the Kassams on Sderot and the shabby treatment of the expelled -- has made it clear to everybody that Sharon had nothing up his sleeve and no rabbits in his hat.

The army is now largely dependent on soldiers who are not in the thrall of the elite's suicide pact. Just go to the swearing-in ceremony of any serious combat unit and you won't need any statistical surveys to persuade you of this point. Which is why, despite rapidly declining rates of enlistment among secular soldiers, the IDF has undertaken to make openly religious and right-wing soldiers feel unwelcome. In the induction office, soldiers whose profile or appearance marks them as having suspicious politics are subjected to political interrogations. Soldiers who question politically-influenced commands in the army are harassed and released from service. Elazar Stern, head of the IDF's manpower division and a person who still has a chip on his shoulder for not having served in hesder with his fellow Netiv Meir graduates, seeks to bar hesder soldiers from the Golani and paratrooper brigades. Senior officers are trying to integrate women into combat units and one can only presume that this is for the purposes of chasing away religious soldiers.

The leftist elite hold on to power despite having become a minority by controlling the succession apparatus in crucial establishments: the press, the justice system, academia and the army. The problem is that those of their kids who stay in Israel are willing to be journalists, lawyers and professors. Soldiering is now less glamorous in those circles and they are finding that the natives who are increasingly doing the work for them are getting restless and even a bit uppity.

The situation in which a leftist elite, with dwindling investment in the future of the country, commit us to destructive policies meant to be implemented by foot soldiers who are heavily invested in the country's future, and hence to the failure of this policies, is a recipe for civil war. Olmert is the kind of craven cynic who will commit Israel to destructive policies but, rather than actually implement them, will dump the whole mess on the lap of his successors, while he joins his kids and Avrum Burg in Paris.

What then should we do? We must recognize that to allow the army to fall apart through massive insubordination is an unmitigated disaster. Rather soldiers committed to Israel's future must take a page from the left's playbook. They must declare long before the army is called upon to commit criminal folly that they will not participate. Recall Yair Tsaban and Yossi Sarid's published declaration that if the IDF is asked to expel Arabs, they'd lie down in front of the tanks and call for massive insubordination. Recall Yiftach Spector and other pilots who announced they would not abet the "occupation". These people were never subsequently put in a position where they had to make good on their threats because no politician had the guts to call their bluff. We must do the same. The army's inability to implement certain orders must be made clear sufficiently in advance such that such orders are never given.

Otherwise, God help us.

11 Comments:

Blogger Sharvul said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Sharvul said...

Your analysis is so wrong I don't know where to start. So I'll address only two points:

1. Not only will there be an army behind Olmert/Livni. It will perform its duty with willingness. The religious component of the combat units is overly exaggerated (witness the dead soldiers in the 2nd Lebanon war) and most of them will obey the law instead of the rabbis, just as they did in the past. The "scars of Amona and Gaza" are imaginary scars; it's not that most of the population doesn't feel them. They don't believe there were any scars in the first place!

2. Your recipe is doomed for failure for the simple reason it's already been tried before by the right, and failed. Many threatened not to take part in the disengagement from Gaza; several prominent rabbis vowed it will not happen. Many in the "establishment" actually took these threats seriously. And yet, when judgement day came by, nothing happened. A couple of soldiers made a show of refusing to take part, and the rest just did their job. Faithfully. Just as they will next time.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let’s slow down a little here.
“When it comes to implementing whatever agreement they come to, however, they will discover they have no army behind them.”
Forget the army. I doubt they even have the people – or rather, the Knesset members – to support this scheme.
“The scars of the disengagement and Amona are still very raw.”
I don’t know how deep or long-lasting the scars of Amona or Gaza the scars were. The country is just not that in touch with the settlement movement, or the settlers, or the Occupied Territories/Judea Samaria. (Why this is true is for a different post – hope to hear from you about it!)
I agree with you about Sharon’s ability to do what he did stems in large part from his street cred. Of which Olmert has zero, or less. I wonder if the Kassams really make that much of a difference to the greater (Ashkenazi) country, outside of the theoretical (one reason it is tolerated). And the question of the post-disengagement treatment of the Gazans, well I wonder if that is much more than a blip on most Israelis’ radar screen.
“Just go to the swearing-in ceremony of any serious combat unit and you won't need any statistical surveys to persuade you of this point.”
I am not sure what you mean by this. Do you mean that most are kipa-wearing? Are you sure this is a clear indication of anything? Relatively very few RZ soldiers disobeyed orders in Gaza 2 years ago.
“…Which is why, despite rapidly declining rates of enlistment among secular soldiers, the IDF has undertaken to make openly religious and right-wing soldiers feel unwelcome. In the induction office, soldiers whose profile or appearance marks them as having suspicious politics are subjected to political interrogations. Soldiers who question politically-influenced commands in the army are harassed and released from service. Elazar Stern, head of the IDF's manpower division and a person who still has a chip on his shoulder for not having served in hesder with his fellow Netiv Meir graduates, seeks to bar hesder soldiers from the Golani and paratrooper brigades. Senior officers are trying to integrate women into combat units and one can only presume that this is for the purposes of chasing away religious soldiers.”
These contentions need some kind of real support.

”The leftist elite hold on to power despite having become a minority by controlling the succession apparatus in crucial establishments: the press, the justice system, academia and the army.”
Academia? How so academia? I know, for example, that many if not most of the profs on the HU Math faculty are right of center (to say the least).

“The problem is that those of their kids who stay in Israel are willing to be journalists, lawyers and professors.”
Now there is your problem, friend. Get the RZ youth to start entering education at all levels (and not some yeshiva somewhere, but in the larger Israel, from grade school to grad school), journalism (and not in Basheva!) the law, military upper echelons, and there can be a shift in the country. I mean, the RZ yeshivas pump out hundreds of teachers a year. Instead of having them set up another yeshiva/yishuv on some windswept hilltop, let them go where Israeli public policy is made! I understand that sometimes this is very difficult if not impossible, such as the judicial system, but clearly the possibility for change is in our hands!

”The situation in which a leftist elite, with dwindling investment in the future of the country, commit us to destructive policies meant to be implemented by foot soldiers who are heavily invested in the country's future, and hence to the failure of this policies, is a recipe for civil war.”
You know, people say this all the time, but you have to explain David Grossman to me. And I am sure there are others like him…
“Olmert is the kind of craven cynic who will commit Israel to destructive policies but, rather than actually implement them, will dump the whole mess on the lap of his successors, while he joins his kids and Avrum Burg in Paris.”
Not only a craven cynic, but an incompetent one at that!

”What then should we do? We must recognize that to allow the army to fall apart through massive insubordination is an unmitigated disaster. Rather soldiers committed to Israel's future must take a page from the left's playbook. They must declare long before the army is called upon to commit criminal folly that they will not participate. Recall Yair Tsaban and Yossi Sarid's published declaration that if the IDF is asked to expel Arabs, they'd lie down in front of the tanks and call for massive insubordination. Recall Yiftach Spector and other pilots who announced they would not abet the "occupation". These people were never subsequently put in a position where they had to make good on their threats because no politician had the guts to call their bluff. We must do the same. The army's inability to implement certain orders must be made clear sufficiently in advance such that such orders are never given.”
Perhaps, instead of pegging it on rabbinic dictates – daas torah, psak din, halakha, etc. – the reason for the refusal to obey such withdrawal orders should stem from reasons of threats to national security, is ethically unsustainable, etc. Leave the rabbis, and [organized] religion if possible, out of it!
“Otherwise, God help us.”
As I hope I made clear in this response, I just don’t think Olmert et cetera can come close to delivering what he seems to be wagging about. So I don’t think civil war is in the offing. But God help us in any case.
By the way, I love your blog – kav ve-naki. When I happened on it I went back and read all the “back issues.” Keep ‘em coming!

9:23 PM  
Anonymous bar_kochba132 said...

Excellent post. I agree with almost everything you say, and your prescription. However, I would like to emphasize my belief that there was virtually no active opposition to the Gush Katif crime because the self-proclaimed leaders of the "opposition" themselves quietly reached an agreement with Sharon to carry out the destruction for him. Those, who tried to organize an active passive resistance campaign (i.e. by barricading their homes) like Aryeh and Datia Yitzhaki and Nadia Matar in the hotel were ostracized by the official Gush Katif and YESHA leadership and left on their own. One fellow in Neveh Dekalim who barricaded his house with barbed wire said it took a good part of a day for the soldiers to break through (I read this in "B'Sheva".) Yet, he was the ONLY one who did so. If a lot had done it, it would have taken WEEKS to clear out Neveh Dekalim, instead of a couple of days.
For reasons, I can not fathom, the so-called "opposition" leaders reached this agreement with Sharon because promised them "this is the last time there will be a pinui, and this will buy us decades of good-will from the rest of the world". Why these people would believe a deceitful man like Sharon is totally beyond me but they were apparently blinded by years of "mamlachti hero-worship". I think, as you indicate, and as other perceptive observers like Nadav Shragai of Ha'aretz have pointed out, that things have changed for people, especially the religious youth and their view of the "Establishment" of both the State, and the YESHA movement has undergone a sea-change.
The majority of the population would be on the sidelines in such a struggle. A highly motivated minority, committed to its beliefs can move mountains. I sincerely believe that much of the nation's disillusionment is due to the fact that the people they (and I mean a clear majority of the Jewish population) had viewed as idealists, those of Gush Katif and YESHA suddenly capitulated without any real struggle, leaving the majority to think "If they aren't going to fight for what they believe in , how can I". I myself heard one of the legendary founders of the YESHA movement say "We can't block roads or do passive disobedience because PEOPLE WON'T LIKE IT". We, who were trying to save Gush Katif weren't doing it just to save those settlements, but to save Am Israel in Sederot and the resto of the country. Saving Jewish lives is not worth blocking some roads and causing a little inconvenience?
I, again say, that the youth has now seen through the mamlachti blindless of that previous generation and there is hope. We just have to get our act together.

10:32 AM  
Anonymous Abbi said...

Whoa, have you considered taking a stroll outside of your yishuv at some point? It might help give you some kind of perspective.

The only ones suffering scars from Amona and the disengagement are right wing RZers. Everyone else in the country has pretty much moved on.

All of the problems you list are very 2003. Israel has a lot of problems, I just don't think these are it.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Let me clarify a few points.

It never occurred to me that soldiers should or actually ever have taken instruction from rabbanim on military matters. The only people under the illusion that such is the case are deluded rabbanim and leftists who prefer to believe that soldiers with "incorrect" views are mindless automata. (To be sure, hesdernikim do occasionally inquire of their rabbanim with regard to certain issues but, except on halachic matters, this is for the purpose of getting post facto support for decisions they came to themselves and is mostly a courtesy. And in most of these cases the rabbanim are at least as mamlachti as the soldiers.)

Second, I am categorically opposed to insubordination except in the most extreme cases. I believe, however, that it is essential that the government be at least as afraid of insubordination from the right as it is from the left. The consequences of the alternative are well attested.

Third, I have no illusions that the Sheinkin crowd or the Beit She'an crowd or the Meimad crowd or anybody outside my little bubble feel the pain of the hitnatkut or its victims in any visceral way. However, the hitnatkut was not easy for very many (far from all, I know) of those who had to carry it out and it has left a mark. The next time will be much harder because everyone is a bit wiser, the scale will be larger, Olmert isn't Sharon, and the demographics of the army are changing very quickly.

The country is now run by those whose grandparents lived here but it will ultimately be run by those whose grandchildren will live here.

9:54 PM  
Blogger Ben Bayit said...

I have no idea why you are against disobedience in th emilitary. Disobedience in the military is probably the only form of civil disobedience enshrined in Israeli Law (E.g. as opposed to Germany where other forms also have a basis in the law and even constitution). It's just a matter of how to interpret "illegal order" that the law mentions. Now the kfar kassam decision that purported to offer a definition - offered up a bad one. But the principle is enshrined in Israeli Law. So far from being something that will destroy the army and the state, military disobedience was seen by israeli lawmakers (and essentially its founders as the law was passed in the early 1950's) as something positively essential to the Israeli body politic. Saying that disobedience will destroy the army and thus the state just plays into the hands of those Rabbis and others who used this reasoning of last resort to acquiese to blatantly undemocratic actiosn such as the Gush Katif pogrom. What you advocate can never happen unless you change your position. The reason why leftists can get away with it is because for every two leftists who say they will never disobey an order once in the army but just won't enlist if the army illegaly occupies/bombs/etc. there is another leftist who says thei WILL disobey orders even after enlisting. The right has to do the same.

10:13 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

BB,
Your argument supports the threat of disobedience, not actual disobedience.

10:22 PM  
Anonymous zalman said...

Given the Israeli tendency to adopt the most optimistic scenario and wildly hope for the best, with the press cheering them on (and deligitamizing the realists), who will worry about the threat of disobedience?

12:53 AM  
Blogger Jeffrey said...

1) I tend to agree (sadly)that the army won't rise up and refuse to carry out orders. The Left has too much of a lock on information to get some alternative thinking into their heads. Ironically, I fear our help will come from the Arabs.

2)I think people do underestimate the scars of Gush Katif on the general public (again thanks, in part, to the Kassams). Whether that makes a difference is anyone's guess.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Ben Bayit said...

saying a priori that you are against disobedience in the military dissolves any threat of disobedience to becoming meaningless. If you say you will carry out the order when it is actually given you are either saying 1) that the order is legal or 2) that you will break the law and carry out an illegal order. My guess is that most people think it is 1) and thus render any argument against the legitimicay of the orders moot.

The left was successful because they were willing to actually disobey orders. Read the websites of yesh gvul et al and you will se this. We must do the same - in practice not just in theory

11:24 AM  

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