Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, Israel’s Chief of Staff (equivalent to chairman of the Joint Chiefs here), today severely criticized the current repressive policies of the Sharon government against the Palestinians in Israel’s Chief of Staff Denounces Policies Against Palestinians. In effect, Yaalon was criticizing not only Sharon, he was also calling into question the very policies which his own forces are implementing. I’ve been following Israeli politics since 1967 and cannot remember a time when a Chief of Staff criticized government policies so strongly and clearly. For Mideast doves, today was a very good day. Let us hope that momentum is sustained.
Imagine how that will go over with the rank and file soldier! Hopefully, it will make them question what they are doing even more strongly than at present. Here is the gist of Yaalon’s statement as quoted from the Israeli press:
Nahum Barnea, a leading Israeli columnist with the daily Yediot Ahronot, quoted “a military official” as saying comprehensive travel restrictions and curfews imposed on Palestinians were actually harming Israel’s overall security.
“It increases hatred for Israel and strengthens the terror organizations,” Mr. Barnea wrote, quoting the official.
General Yaalon also said that Israel should have eased punitive measures to bolster the fortunes of the former Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, who resigned on Sept. 6 after only four months on the job.
“There is no hope, no expectations for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, nor in Bethlehem and Jericho,” Mr. Barnea quoted the “military official” as saying. “In our tactical decisions, we are operating contrary to our strategic interest.”
In previous public statements, General Yaalon has supported strong military action.
While this might look like a strike out of the blue for the military commander to directly contradict his civilian commander (and it could never happen here [I hope]), there may be ample reason for this. Though I know nothing of the background for Yaalon’s statement, it could be possible that his military career is nearing an end (most Chiefs of Staff retire from the service after performing this role for a few years and then return to private life; MANY chiefs turn to politics after they retire) and he plans to run for office. If he’s intending to run as a Labor Party member, then this statement makes perfect sense. Or if he wishes Sharon to fire him so that he can do the same thing…it’s possible that he will get his wish and become a hero to Labor Party members throughout the country as the man who stood up to Sharon. Whatever the reasons, this man deserves a lot of credit and has a lot of guts. May there be more where he came from.