There is a saying that Man proposes and God disposes (in U.S. politics it’s “the President proposes, Congress disposes”). But in Israel the IDF proposes AND disposes. This is a process of which I have long been especially critical. In most democracies the military echelon answers to the political echelon and the latter can exercise some control over the former. Not in Israel. In that country, the IDF has become such a sacrosanct institution that it rules the roost both in terms of developing and implementing military policy. It even controls to a certain extent the political ramifications of that policy.
The effect is to make the army an entity that is accountable to no one. Which in turn, causes the momumental blunders and self-deceving strategic decisions it has made in recent years including the Lebanon and Gaza wars and the Mavi Marmara fiasco.
Reuven Pedatzur, one of Israel’s leading academic experts on military strategic policy, has written a powerful account of this problem in Haaretz. It’s a primer for the study of the IDF’s overweening pride and the willingness of the political elites to defer to the army. He especially notes how both Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak not only blamed the IDF for the failure of the Gaza flotilla operation, they also confirmed that as political leaders they relied on the IDF, and not their own analyses or judgement, to determine whether an operation could succeed and should be pursued. Can anyone think of a worse way of running a supposedly democratic country?
The army chief of staff has announced to the world during his testimony to the Tirkel Commission that the IDF in future, when it attempts to stop boats seeking to run the Gaza blockade, will position snipers to kill unruly passengers. This is a formula for even more deadly massacres than the last one. Of course, no one in the political leadership will question this decision. It will be accepted as are virtually all IDF judgments.