Moshe Yaalon, immediate past IDF chief of staff, has given an exclusive interview to Haaretz in which he excoriates his successor, Dan Halutz and Ehud Olmert for the failures in managing the Lebanon war. To put his criticism in context–Halutz clearly is preparing to enter politics and this interview will, no doubt, make a big splash in Israel. Also, one should keep in mind that Yaalon, while he has had moments of refreshing candor, is no dove. He’s been as bloodthirsty as your average chief of staff. Also, he was moved out of his position when he chafed at being asked by Sharon to participate in the Gaza withdrawal, which he opposed. Nevertheless, these words are quite searing and extraordinary:
Ya’alon castigated the decision to launch the ground operation at the end of the war in which 33 soldiers died.
“That was a spin move,” Ya’alon said. “It had no substantive security-political goal, only a spin goal. It was meant to supply the missing victory picture. You don’t do that. You don’t send soldiers to carry out a futile mission after the political outcome has already been set.
I consider that corrupt.”
You are saying a very serious thing. Thirty-three soldiers were killed in that operation. Were they killed to achieve a spin?
“Yes. And that is why people have to resign. For that you don’t even need a commission of inquiry. Whoever made that decision has to assume responsibility and resign.”
Does the prime minister have to resign?
“Yes. He can’t say he didn’t know. He can’t say that. Even if he was not an army person in the past and was not prime minister or defense minister, he knows how one goes to war. This is not the way to go to war. And he knows how a war is managed. This is not the way a war is managed. Going to war was scandalous, and he is directly responsible for that. The war’s management was a failure, and he is responsible for that. The final operation was particularly problematic, and he was directly involved in that. He was warned and did not heed the warnings. Therefore, he must resign.”
And the chief of staff?
“The chief of staff failed in the management of the war. He gave the political echelon the feeling that he had the capability, which in practice he did not have, to bring about a political achievement by means of an extremely aggressive military operation. He entered the war without defining it as a war, and maybe without understanding that it was a war. He did not understand the implications of the measures he himself adopted. He did not mobilize the reserves in time, and did not open the emergency depots in time, and did not activate the high-command base. He managed the war from his office. He imposed missions such as Bint Jbail without any discussion and without consulting with the command about the consequences and implications. He created lack of clarity that rattled the forces in the field, caused a loss of trust and generated chaos. He did not give the commanders in the North backing. He did not build a structure that would help him overcome his weakness in the land sphere. He managed the campaign arrogantly and shallowly.”
What is remarkable about this passage, especially the italicized words above, is that Yaalon reveals that he was opposed to the war. In other words, his views contradict not only Olmert and Israel’s political leadership, including the IDF, they contradict the overwhelming majority of Israelis who supported the war (including most of the “liberal” peace movement). If his words can be believed, he’s made quite a radical (and refreshing) statement reinforcing the utter bankruptcy of both the war and the military/policy thinking that led to it.
No one knows on which side Yaalon will plant his flag when he enters politics. Though he comes from a Labor family, speculation has it that he will join forces with Likud. Given his security hawk credentials this makes certain sense though it would certainly be a blow to Labor which needs precisely this type of figure to bolster its image as security-challenged.
On a lighter note, if he succeeds in becoming prime minister one day he will have the distinction of being perhaps the world’s only head of state with the nickname ‘Boogy.’