Man May Propose and God Dispose, But in Israel the IDF Proposes and Disposes
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.
3 thoughts on “Man May Propose and God Dispose, But in Israel the IDF Proposes and Disposes – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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RE: “…the IDF has become such a sacrosanct institution that it rules the roost both in terms of developing and implementing military policy…” – R.S.
SEE: Generals in the Cabinet Room: How the Military Shapes Israeli Policy, By Yoram Peri, May 2006
In what is certain to become a landmark study, Israel’s foremost analyst of civil-military relations identifies and investigates a dramatic shift of power within Israel’s political system. Where once the military was usually the servant of civilian politicians, today, argues Yoram Peri, generals lead the way when it comes to foreign and defense policymaking. The implications for Israeli-Palestinian relations, for Israeli democracy, and indeed for other democracies are profound.
Generals in the Cabinet Room offers unparalleled insights into the workings of Israel’s military-political complex over the past fifteen years. Drawing on extensive literature (much of it in Hebrew and thus largely unknown outside of Israel) and hundreds of interviews with leading players, Peri explains how Israel’s prolonged experience of low-intensity conflict and political crisis has enabled the military establishment to acquire unprecedented influence, shaping Israeli policy toward the Oslo process and the al-Aqsa intifada…
AMAZON – http://www.amazon.com/Generals-Cabinet-Room-Military-Israeli/dp/1929223811
Not only is the military establishment rarely accountable to the political establishment, but when accountability arrives the victims are merely sentenced to moving into politics. I think the story of Ariel Sharon’s career is emblematic of this.
What is more disturbing in this disconnect is that the army runs the West Bank, with almost NO accountability to the Israeli public. This is where “democracy” has never gotten off the ground in Israel. The High Court will rule something illegal (e.g. the wall to be moved or assassinations to be disallowed), but it will NEVER be implemented because the army is accountable to no one.
Furthermore, the army actively implements unspoken policies of its proxies – the religious nationalists. Where settlement freezes are supposed to be in place, the army does nothing to enforce it. Where land grabs are happening, the army serves to defend the settlers.
All in all the “an army with a country” line is most accurate – so the question is, can an army be democratic? It seems to me the purpose of an army is the opposite.
Any army that has been privileged by the condition of being perceived as essential for survival will try to keep the power that comes from such a situation. The point is, how far can an army go without civilian control before it gets too powerful to accept control, any control? How does anyone knows if such a situation is happening, what to do, and why?
Who benefits from this inside and outside the country?
Israel and USAmerica have gone that way. Their governments keep only a resemblance of democracy to allow people to vote under mass media prearranged scenarios, a condition that can be enforced only by a coalition of forces that are not representative of society.
Franco Munini from Venezuela.