Today’s NY Times bears the rather remarkable news that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was not notified in advance by the IDF command that it would be conducting a raid in Ramallah on the same day as his talks with Hosni Mubarak:
Mr. Olmert’s aides said he had not been informed of the raid in advance and was angry about what had happened.
And according to the Jerusalem Post, Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh didn’t even inform his nominal civilian boss, Amir Peretz, the defense minister:
According to reports, Naveh did not inform Defense Minister Amir Peretz of the raid before it was carried out.
All this could mean many things. First, the IDF may have the cabinet’s approval to conduct such raids without first notifying the civilian echelon. Such a process would be foolhardy in my opinion and guarantee more disasters of this kind in future.
Or the IDF may deliberately be poking its finger in the politicians’ eyes by leaving them out of the loop. This too would be disastrous since it would indicate that the IDF may flaunt its independence with impunity. Essentially, it would mean there is no one exercising any control over the IDF. How can a democracy afford such an extravagance? Imagine if Douglas MacArthur could’ve run an end around on Truman during the Korean War. We could’ve had Chinese troops overrunning the entire Korean peninsula and tens of thousands of U.S. troops trapped there. Not to mention the possibility of a nuclear attack either from China or its ally Comrade Stalin.
Or it could mean that the politicians are lying to cover their asses and save themselves from the embarrassment of having to admit to a foreign leader (Mubarak) that they didn’t know what the hell their army was doing.
Whatever the cause or reason, this incident indicates the utter dysfunction of the current government. I don’t know what’s worse–the army that can’t shoot straight or the Keystone Cops cabinet ministers who appear to be bumbling incompetent fools. They can’t manage their way out of a paper bag.
All of which has brought Israel to the unlikely place of having MKs denouncing an IDF operation within hours of its completion. OF course, there have been MKs who have denounced IDF policy. But I can’t remember an incident in which it happened so quickly after the fact. In the old days, such a thing would never have happened. The IDF was a sacred cow incapable of being criticized. But one indication of the weakness of this government and of the IDF is that there is no longer a taboo against slamming the nation’s armed forces. In a way, this is a good thing since no army should be above reproof. But it is also a bad thing in that it shows how far off course the IDF has come. When the IDF makes its own security policy without civilian oversight and the politicians never buy into such policy, this is a recipe for national disaster, which is precisely what we now see happening.
Your ending comment, “When the IDF makes its own security policy without civilian oversight and the politicians never buy into such policy, this is a recipe for national disaster, which is precisely what we now see happening.” I believe his thought, accurate as it is, may cover up a more fundamental point. Although I agree there is a recipe for national disaster in this kind of event I believe it is perhaps for another reason.
I can imagine that the multiple daily seek-and-arrest forays into the West Bank do not require specific approval above a certain command level. 99% of them go off in a ‘routine’ manner which may include routinely injuring or killing either innocent bystanders or even ‘targets’ who at that moment are not involved in offensive operations. That this falls under ‘routine’ is in and of itself a disgrace and crime but that it is ‘routine’ for Israel’s security services, government and the majority of her citizens at the moment is the sad and deplorable reality. In this particular case, the shit hit the fan when the security services were in the middle of the operation. Operations, even with the best of planning, can and sometimes will go wrong. Its a game of calculated risks. And given the ‘routine’ nature of these kinds of operations, the majority of the politicians clearly buys into it. Of course, when things go wrong, especially while the PM is off talking peace with an important Arab neighbor, all of a sudden everybody is a critic for PR purposes.
So the most one can say, is that a mistake in judgment was made long ago since no one had thought in the past to create a standard policy: ‘when a summit or other important foreign affairs meeting is happening here or abroad, all non-essential operations not involving immediate and actual threat will be put on hold.’ I imagine this will become new policy perhaps and be the lesson that Israel ‘mis-learns’ from this.
I believe the deeper meaning of this debacle is slightly different. And I would like to put it in a longer list of events: Hezbollah 30+ day hold-out without defeat and without returning captured soldiers; Hamas still in power after 10 months of total military and economic siege; Gilad Shalit still in captivity after the punishing operation whatever it was called with all the military ‘achievements’ in terms of death and destruction; Palestinian civilians willingly acting as human shields; Israeli arrest teams being surprised and suffering a tactical defeat.
The writing is so on the wall for anyone who cares to read it – the 58 year strategy of security through military might is no longer effective. It is beginning to show cracks, crack that can not be sealed with more military might or the smarter application of that military force. At best, more military might will stem the tide temporarily, but the forces at play are not going away and will only bring more pressure to bear. Its like one of our dikes here in Holland. Once the amount of water seeping through or under reaches a certain volume, some more sandbags may put off the inevitable but you better run, that dike is going to break.
And that I believe is the real message here. I find it scary because I don’t see the political or grass-roots awareness that this 60 years survival strategy- Israel’s security through military power and intimidation – is turning a corner. My fear is that more might will only lead in downward concentric circles towards less security until one day, God forbid, the unthinkable happens. And to my Palestinian brothers and sisters, I know the unthinkable is already happening every day to you. I don’t want that to continue one minute longer and I hope it’s not too late to prevent the unthinkable from becoming our karma either. Otherwise, its going to be like a line from a B-western, “I’ll see you in hell.” “Not if I see you there first.”
Richard Silverstein says
Lenny: I couldn’t agree more. And yes, it seems like a no-brainer to have an SOP that says no major intelligence operations should be initiated while major state events are taking place.