Category Archives: Ehud Olmert

Circling the Schools with Tanks

Anyone who remembers Avigdor Kahalani from that most embarrassing period of his life – when he served as Minister of Internal Security – wasn’t all that surprised by his latest schtick. The teachers’ strike threatens harm to the commemoration project Kahalani planned for himself while still living; and therefore the former division commander, who forced the Golan Druze to accept Israeli citizenship, struck out once more against Israeli democracy.

We are informed by Kahalani that the Security Ministry (where Kahalani holds the shudder-inducing title of Chief of the Security-Social Dept.), will send buses full of officers, who will take the place of the striking teachers, and take the students – I’m sorry, I meant “the future soldiers” – to those old battlefields.

Personally, I am of the opinion that Kahalani somehow manages, in every minute he draws breath after that battle, to besmirch the memory of one of the most impressive battles in history. While Kahalani may not have “saved the State of Israel” in October 1973, as he tends to brag and as the panic-stricken General Staff believed at the time, he did inflict a stunning defeat on the enemy, suffered relatively few losses, and demonstrated admirable coolness under fire and tactical verve.

A normal man would have retired after the Battle of the Vale of Tears, would have understood there were no mountains left to climb; but Kahalani insisted on planting himself in Israeli memory even 34 years later. There’s a reason why old soldiers are expected to fade away: they are, almost without exception, a serious embarrassment to themselves and others when they take off their uniforms. And Kahalani does not break the mold.

Kahalani did not, in all likelihood think through his act; and would not, in all likelihood, understand why replacing striking teachers with officers paid by the State is problematic, even if someone tried to explain it to him; furthermore, all this is done so that the students will get a concentrated dose of Kahalani’s bio.

But why pick on Kahalani? After all, he’s not paying for the buses out of his own pocket; the Security Ministry does. He did not handpick the officers, they did not come because they heard it on the grapevine; they’ll board those buses as per orders. They will be sent by a Security Minister who has recently declared “there is no one who is unfit to serve in the IDF”, which was the latest step in his incitement campaign against people his own ministry disqualified from serve.

The involvement of officers in education did not begin with Kahalani, after all. Education Minister Limor Livnat embraced a “colonel for every high school” plan. There was no public outcry at that; the plan came on top of the planned “checkpoint classes”, which would have taught students – sorry again, I meant future warriors – how to behave at a checkpoint in the Occupied Territories. And when some students protested the arrival of a general at their high school, their fellow students threw stones at them.

The basic purpose of the modern school, an institute dating to Napoleonic France, is to qualify young people to serve in the military, to educate them to loyality to the State, and to qualify them for the work market. Israel, which looks more and more like a neglected branch of the IDF, had it backwards for quite a long time.

The government is encouraging an entire segment of the population not to work; soldiers are considered to be “children”, whose blood is redder than that of civilians; the army is much more important and much more influential than the democratic institutes; and, accordingly, the Education Ministry is considering abolishing the civics matriculation exams.

Kahalani’s mini-putsch will not cause a public debate; there will be no protest. In Israel, the Green Beast is the Golden Calf (and it costs accordingly), and woe to the person who will criticize it. And so, the next time a ruthless senior minister or prime minister – say, Binyamin Netanyahu; say, Ehud Barak; say Ehud Olmert – will wish to break an annoying yet legitimate strike, the flag-wrapped Kahalani shall serve them as a precedent, as a justification.

The Battle of the Vale of Tears shall be reason enough for tears; and the question whether in the end Avigdor Kahalani, rightful owner of the rare Bravery Medal, did more good or harm to his country, shall remain open.

(Published October 7th in the Hebrew blog, written and translated by Yossi Gurvitz. Avigdor Kahalani is a former Brigadier General [Tat Aluf] in the IDF, who played a major part in the victory over the Syrian forces in the Yom Kippur War. His later military career is, to be charitable, less noteworthy; his political career was an unmitigated disaster).

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Won’t Fall Twice in the Same Hole

Knesset Member Zahava Gal’on (Meretz) wrote the Attorney General today, asking him to force the Prime Minister to report to the Knesset’s Foreign Relations and Security Committee on the IAF’s activities in Syria two weeks ago.

This demand for a parliamentarian oversight of the on the activities of the executive branch, which would be par the course in any normal democracy, made all of the “Proud Jews”* crawl out of their lairs: they don’t want to know what happened, and they don’t want the legislators to know, either. They trust the good fellows in the Office of the Prime Minister and the Security** Ministry.

This deep yearning to take the cameras out of the IDF’s face is perfectly understandable: after all, when the camera are on, they show a pitiful, pathetic picture. Those same people now worshipping Olmert’s sphinx-like silence, have forgotten that just a few months ago he was grasping at two percent of public approval, a result of his demonstration, a little more than a year ago, of his deep military thinking.

The people acclaiming the silent figure who replaced Amir Peretz, forget the series of failures which ended his tenure as Prime Minister, forget his tendency to cheat the public, forget his tendency to bring everything into a crisis.

The air is full of rumors whose truth is questionable and which contradict each other. Israel has attacked a weapons shipment intended for Hiabullah; or it has attacked nuclear equipment which, as in a bad espionage movie, came to Syria all the way from North Korea; or, perhaps, it did nothing at all.

The talks of a Syrian nuclear project are particularly worrisome, especially when you look at their source. One of the main speakers is John Bolton, a former senior official in the State Department, a former ambassador to the UN, and a former, present and in all likelihood future extremist hawk. He stands out as one of the opponents of the recent deal with North Korea – which he now essentially blames of proliferating nuclear materials and, indirectly, of breaking the deal. Bolton is supported by State Secretary Rice – and these are two members of the same team which so successfully sold us that earlier deception, that of Saddam Hussein’s WMDa.

Then as now, they are supported by an attendant choir of Israeli intelligence. The same American sources which identify the alleged Syrian target as a nuclear one, tell us that it was Israeli intelligence which identified the target as such.

Let us put aside for the moment the monumental series of blunders by our hush-hush men: the failure to predict the wars of 1956 and 1967; the claim that Saddat’s visit to Jerusalem is an attempt to conceal a surprise Egyptian attack; that flighty entanglement in the Lebanese Civil War; the estimate which claimed in 1980 that the Iran-Iraq War will end in three weeks, and in 1988 confidently predicted it will carry on for three years more; the failure to predict the First Intifada; and I’m yet to say anything about the Yom Kippur War.

Let us put aside for the moment the fact that a special report of the Foreign Relations and Security Committee called for the smashing of AMAN (military intelligence branch) and for depriving it of its status as “national estimator”; let’s focus instead on what that “national estimator”, the traumatized troll [Major General] Amos Gilad (who, according to his superior officer, misrepresented AMAN’s estimates) had to say on the eve of the Second Gulf War. At the time, Gilad boasted that “once Saddam’s arsenal will be exposed, the world will be shocked”. Israeli intelligence briefs were used by the American army prior to the war.

Needless to say, the world was indeed shocked – when it found out there were no WMDs, and that Condi’s “mushroom cloud as a smoking gun” speech turned out as fear-mongering bullshit from beginning to end.

Now, they’re trying to convince us that Syria has, well, not nuclear arms per se, but nuclear weapon “programs”. We’re hinted that the North Korean regime is so ga-ga, it would deliver to Syria an already-made nuclear bomb. And given the bullshit we’ve been fed by AMAN during the last year, it would seem these rumors are meant to pave the way for a war with Syria: a justified war, the most justified war of all, intended to remove a nuclear threat from Israel.

Am I the only one with a sense of deja-vu? Haven’t we watched this movie, with Iraqi subtitles?

Most respected gentlemen of the government: I do not trust your judgment – damn it, I’m not even sure you possess judgment, seeing as you went to the last war after a 20-minutes debate – and I will not have you play war games which just might suck me in. Since we are still a parliamentary regime, kindly turn over all of the information in your possession to the Knesset, who just remembered it’s supposed to provide oversight over you. Maybe in this way you’d be less tempted to go out on adventures. Thank you.

Honorable Knesset Members: Overseeing the government is your duty. The army, in particular, doesn’t like it, which is why oversight over it must be increased. Please remember that, prior to the Second Gulf War, Congress held lengthy debates over the issue. Please, do not be blinded by fear-mongering and the claims of “secrecy” and “intelligence sources”: study the material, ask difficult questions, and if you think you and the public are led by the nose, say so loud and clear. Each and everyone of you will, after all, have to face himself in the morning, and going to war based on erroneous or false intelligence is a heavy burden. You can avoid us, but you will not be able to tell yourself “our hands did not spill this blood”.

Dear Israeli public, if you still exist: Please remember how did all our wars in the last 40 years began, and how they ended. Remember how the gorilla-like chest-beating were replaced by mournful whimpers. You’d better turn off the TV and wake up before it’s too late.

And if I may just quote President Bush: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…. That’s not going to happen”.

* – Proud Jews: a common nickname among ultra-nationalistic, ultra-xenophobe, often Orthodox Israeli talkbackers.

** –  Israel does not have a Defense Ministry, it has a Security Ministry (Misrad Ha’Bitakhon). The two terms are similar but not exact translations: the original meaning of Bitakhon was trusting God. And while an army can certainly defend, it cannot assure security – which is an Israeli obsession.

(Written by Yossi Gurvitz and posted in the Hebrew blog on September 17th. Translation by Yossi Gurvitz)