One of Haaretz’s veteran correspondents, Gideon Levy, writes yet another scathing denunciation of Shaul Mofaz‘s tenure as Israeli defense minister and before that, IDF chief of staff. Yesterday, I wrote about Akiva Eldar‘s portrayal of Mofaz’s brutality and ineptitude in both government posts. But if anything, Levy’s attack is more scabrous and doesn’t stop short of accusing Mofaz of war crimes:
During the eight years in which Mofaz headed the defense establishment – four years as chief of staff and four as defense minister – he did everything he could to derail any chance of an accord with the Palestinians. We are not only talking about his inhumane policy toward the entire Palestinian people, but also his systematic effort to destroy the Palestinian Authority and not leave a trace of it, lest Israel have a partner for peace. Mofaz is not only responsible for countless unnecessary victims, but also for the destruction of the infrastructure of moderate Palestinian leadership. From this perspective, the Hamas government and the impasse we now face are the direct result of his policy. The person who called for liquidating Yasser Arafat and ordered the bombing of the PA’s installations bears heavy responsibility for the rise of the Hamas alternative. If only for this failure, Mofaz should have paid the price with his cabinet seat long ago.
But there is also something else, which we do not discuss often: It is called morality…The heritage Mofaz left for the IDF, and via the IDF to society as a whole, is wholly based on the exercise of force and violence. During Mofaz’s days, force had no limitations. The IDF opened fire, bombed, liquidated and destroyed on an alarming and unprecedented scale. The moral image of Israel was completely distorted…The purity of arms became an annoying and archaic concept, the IDF almost completely stopped investigating incidents involving killing, and the finger on the trigger became frightfully light. Mofaz’s spirit of command prevailed over everything.
What is to be done with Mofaz now?…The mark of shame on his brow will only become evident to Israeli society in another generation. In the meantime, he should not be a minister. Here is a challenge for the interim prime minister: Leave Mofaz out and even explain why. Tell citizens that there is no place in your government for someone suspected of being responsible for war crimes…
Last February, Daily Telegraph reported that Mofaz was in high dudgeon over the fact that one of his senior IDF officers had to cancel a planned trip to Britain for fear of being arrested for war crimes:
The affair prompted an angry response from Israel’s defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, who…called on “countries that suffer from terrorism at home” not to take legal action against “soldiers and officers who acted legally against vicious and atrocious terror”.
Mofaz of course makes the mistaken assumption that Britain would pursue the same policy choices he and his government made in prosecuting Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. My cherished hope is that Mofaz himself will be one of the those current and former IDF officers who cannot make overseas trips without fear of the same thing happening to him.
It is only fair to note that there could be no “Shaul Mofaz” unless he served a useful purpose for the political echelon which appointed and supported him. Sharon must’ve wanted a brutal beast of a chief of staff. And that’s what Mofaz gave him. Certainly, Mofaz improvised new riffs on brutishness which his sponsors may not have expected. But largely he did their bidding.
With Amir Peretz as defense minister things must get better. But how much better? And will they improve enough to breathe some semblance of life into Israeli-Palestinian relations which have withered with the ‘scorched earth’ policies of his predecessor.