Lots of pro-Israel partisans who visit this blog think I despise the IDF and that I lie in wait to criticize its every move against Israel’s enemies (their view, not mine). But I want them all to take notice that I come here not to bury the IDF but to praise it. Actually, to praise two of its most senior officers who counseled reason and level-headedness when all around them seemed to be losing theirs (their heads that is):
Two Israel Defense Forces General Staff officers, operations chief Major General Gadi Eisenkut and the Intelligence Division’s head of research, Brigadier General Yossi Beiditz, strongly opposed last month’s decision to launch a broad ground offensive against Hezbollah shortly before the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for a cease-fire in the war in Lebanon.
The decision to embark on the operation was made on Wednesday, August 9, when it was already clear that the Security Council would vote on a cease-fire resolution soon thereafter. The council in fact passed the resolution at 5 A.M. on Saturday.
Beiditz wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz that his division believed that the last-minute offensive would not significantly affect the enemy or lead to achievements. Beiditz sent a copy of the letter to Chief of Staff Dan Halutz.
…A heated debate took place over the offensive. Halutz supported the decision wholeheartedly, and continues to support it. Eisenkut strongly opposed the decision.
Beiditz also opposed the decision, which was more exceptional, since he had not been invited to cabinet deliberations.
Halutz did not object to Beiditz’ right to express an opinion, but chastised the officer for sending a letter directly to the prime minister.
However, senior intelligence officers and former chiefs of staff believe that Beiditz’ position obligated him to express his opinion, even directly to the prime minister.
Olmert’s military secretary, Major General Gad Shmani, also opposed the move, and advised the prime minister accordingly.
…During the operation, 33 IDF soldiers were killed and many more were injured.
These three officers are owed a debt of gratitude by Israel for standing up for a position that was not one shared by the majority of their fellow officers or even their fellow citizens. This standing up for conscience is in the highest traditions of the IDF. And yes, for those who don’t share my views of Israel viewing it and the IDF as irretrievably immoral, I do believe there is an honorable tradition of respect for human dignity within the Israeli armed forces. It was once the dominant tradition there. But it is no longer. There are, however, pockets of those old values and these three officers represent them.
No doubt each of them has probably forfeited their military careers or at least the chance of significant advancement (unless of course Halutz is ousted and someone replaces him who values the advice they gave). But I think each of them must’ve been prepared to accept this eventuality. And that is what is great and honorable in what they did.
If I were a parent of one of those 33 dead soldiers I’d also be writing them a personal letter of thanks. It would be a bitter type of thank you because their sons died. But at least they could be comforted by the fact that someone within the highest echelons saw their impending death as a waste of human life.