Criticism of military and security matters must be voiced because of the life-threatening concerns involved * For years, Ya’alon worked devotedly and courageously for the sake of Israel’s security, and even assisted in Jewish settlement, but failed in three fundamental areas * Complacency and unpreparedness in operation ‘Tzuk Eitan’ and in the period prior to the Second Lebanon War * Alienation of national values reflected in the onslaught against the soldier Elor Azaria, and in Ya’alon’s encouragement of the Deputy Chief of Staff * The harming of Torah values and emuna in the IDF, while left-wing groups are allowed in undisturbed * Since the Oslo Accords the moral level of senior officers has declined, and this should be criticized
A Personal Preface
After the insulting directive was issued by the Defense Minister’s office calling for my banning a number of months ago, I thought to write the following article. However, I refrained from writing it, and even avoided dealing with related matters, lest I be overcritical due to my having been humiliated. At present, I feel I’ve “cooled off”, and yet I would not have published this article, seeing as it is not proper to cast a stone on someone who has fallen. However, in light of the flood of praises that have been showered on the former Defense Minister as a symbol of military success and a paragon of morality, I find myself obligated to publish it. As described below, such criticism is essential because of pikuach nefesh (the saving of lives) – physical and spiritual alike.
The Former Defense Minister
Former Defense Minister, Mr. Moshe Ya’alon, is a professional person with extensive experience, who worked dedicatedly and courageously over many years for the sake of Israel’s security. There are few people who are as intimately acquainted with Israel’s defense establishment as he is. Despite having been educated in leftist movements, he managed awakening to a certain extent from the Left’s delusions of “peace”, and even assisted in the building of Judea and Samaria. Nevertheless, unfortunately, he failed in three fundamental areas: in leading the defense forces in face of imminent threats; in causing damage to national morals, and in undermining the values of emuna (faith) and Torah.
Defense: The Disappointing Results of Operation ‘Tzuk Eitan‘
Since the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Gush Katif, the IDF was forced to conduct four rounds of fighting in Gaza (the data below was taken from Wikipedia).
The first conflict, ‘Geshmei Kiyetz’ (‘Summer Rain’), began in the summer of 2006 following the Second Lebanon War, and continued in low intensity for five months, during which daily life in communities surrounding the Gaza Strip was disrupted. Prime Minister – Ehud Olmert; Defense Minister – Peretz; Chief of Staff – Halutz; GOC – Galant. We suffered five casualties, and the enemy approximately 394 – 79 times more.
The second, ‘Oferet Yitzuka’ (Operation Cast Lead), began in the month of December 2008. Lasted 23 days, severely damaging daily civilian life in the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip, and causing slight damage to the economy of the South. The Prime Minister – Olmert; Defense Minister – Barak; Chief of Staff – Ashkenazi; GOC – Galant. We suffered 12 casualties, the enemy approximately 1,100 – 91 times more.
The third, ‘Amud Anan’ (Operation Pillar of Defense), in November 2012, lasted eight days while during that time, most of the communities in the South were completely paralyzed. The Prime Minister – Netanyahu; Defense Minister – Barak; Chief of Staff – Gantz; GOC – Russo. We suffered six casualties, the enemy approximately 223 – 37 times more.
Please note: now we come to the stage where Moshe Ya’alon served as Defense Minister.
The fourth, “Tzuk Eitan” (Operation Protective Edge), in the summer of 2014, lasted 50 days, causing severe and prolonged damage to daily life in all of the South, moderate damage in the Central region, and a severe blow to tourism, including the cessation of flights to Israel for two days, and an extremely heavy cost to Israel’s economy. Prime Minister – Netanyahu; Defense Minister – Ya’alon; Chief of Staff – Gantz; GOC – Turgeman. We suffered 73 casualties, the enemy approximately 2,100 – 28 times more.
Besides the heavy loss of life of our soldiers, and the severe damage caused to daily life and the economy, it became evident that the leadership attempted to ignore the threat of the tunnels, the army was unprepared for the challenges it faced, did not devise offensive plans for operations to eliminate Hamas or destroy their ability and leadership, and suffered heavier losses, over and above those suffered in previous operations and compared with enemy casualties.
The Second Lebanon War
The Second Lebanon War took place in the summer of 2006 and lasted 34 days, completely paralyzing the entire Northern area, with the majority of residents either in shelters, or evacuated to the center of the country. We suffered 165 casualties, the enemy approximately 900 – 5.4 times more. War costs were extremely heavy to Israel’s economy.
After the war it became evident that army leadership had acted with extreme complacency and negligence, and failed to identify the enemy’s capabilities. Thus, the war began without the military command having any operative programs – they even lacked updated maps. The soldiers were sent to the frontlines without proper equipment, and endangered their lives to save what the High Command had neglected. As a result of the severe conclusions of the Winograd Committee, the Defense Minister and Chief of Staff resigned, and along with them, numerous other officers.
Seeing as Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon concluded his tenure as Chief of Staff but a year before the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War, ultimately, he also was a partner in the failures of preparing the army to face the threat of Hezbollah. The same thing happened in operation ‘Tzuk Eitan‘, when it became clear that those responsible for Israel’s security had not perceived the threat, and as a result, were not adequately prepared for it.
Apparently, when presented with a framework and clear objectives – Ya’alon excels; but as the head of a system, responsible for setting objectives, he is a failure.
In a series of events, the Defense Minister placed himself in a position hostile to basic, national values. It may be that Elor Azaria, the soldier who shot dead the wounded terrorist in Hevron, made a mistake according to army regulations, and he should bear responsibility for this. But we must not forget that his intentions were good. He was fighting the enemy, and wished to protect his comrades. He is not a murderer. When the Defense Minister dishonors his name in all of the media, denounces him as a murderer, and directs the legal battle against him, he causes damage to the people of Israel. Not only does he betray the soldier Elor Azaria, but all the troops he sent into battle, for they too are liable to make the same mistake on occasion.
After the Deputy Chief of Staff, Yair Golan, compared Israel to Nazi Germany in the 1930’s, Ya’alon should have fired him, or at the very least, demanded that he retract his words and publicly apologize for having said them. Instead, he chose to defend him, and moreover, encouraged other commanders to voice such blasphemy.
Underlying such an appalling attitude there has to be an overflowing degree of ignorance and wickedness. Despite everything, compliance with army law is constantly improving. Compared to the current situation, the behavior of the Palmach fighters and IDF combat units in its nascent days was infinitely wilder and crueler. Now of all times, the Deputy Chief of Staff detects symptoms reminding him of the Nazis?! And the Defense Minister marvels at his honesty and wisdom, and calls for officers to continue voicing such hideous and baseless things?!
Emuna and Torah Values
Under the tenure of Ya’alon, the status of the Military Rabbinate eroded. The ‘Jewish Awareness’ Department was transferred from the Military Rabbinate to the Department of Manpower, impairing its activities. Even the right to grant permission to grow a beard for religious reasons was taken away from the Rabbinate, and given to the Adjutant Corps. Meanwhile, with encouragement of the Defense Minister, and with infuriating audacity, female singers are increasingly participating in military ceremonies, and religious soldiers are required to take part in them, contrary to the ruling of the majority of rabbis.
Parallel to the directive banning me because of my basic position that orders to expel Jews from their homes should be refused, the IDF funds courses given by institutes with distinctly leftist positions, such as the ‘Hartman Institute’ and ‘Machon Bina’, for all army officers. If the lecturers speaking on their behalf were asked what a soldier should do if he receives an order to expel an Arab from his home, the majority of them would say that he should refuse the order. Yet, Ya’alon chose them to educate IDF officers to the values of the extreme left, rather than heightening Jewish national awareness.
The command to take over the yeshiva in Yitzhar for a long period also reflects a severe blow to Israel’s sacred values. Ya’alon did not dare do that to any mosque, where violence, murder, and the destruction of the State of Israel is preached a thousand times more.
This coincides with his disgraceful treatment of his Deputy Minister, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan. Rabbi Eli is known as an affable person, able to cooperate with various parties. Despite signed agreements however, Ya’alon chose to ignore and humiliate him, and by doing so, demean his constituents, the religious Zionists.
The Connection between the Three Areas
These three areas are intertwined. True, there may be individuals who are highly successful in leading the army against the enemy yet neglect national and faith-bound values, whose long-term impact on Israel’s security is crucial. If there are others who complement what they lack in the area of values, their professionalism in the field of defense can cover for their shortcomings. If there is no one else to complement their deficiency, then over a period of time, the lack of values will prevail and lead to severe consequences, such as the Yom Kippur War.
As the functioning of Mr. Ya’alon in the field of defense was not particularly successful, his shortcomings in the field of values makes things all the worse.
Despite understanding the impossibility of implementing Leftist aspirations to establish another Arab country, Mr. Ya’alon still clings to the values of the Left, whereby national and religious factors are marginal or a hindrance. However, seeing as nationalism and religion in truth are the power base of the Jewish people and the State of Israel, it is preferable for a Defense Minister who does not understand this, to vacate his seat.
The Importance of Criticism of the IDF
It is important to examine another aspect. As a result of the Oslo Accords, the moral level of senior officers suffered a tremendous blow, and they were forced to associate with the most heinous murderers. Their loyalty to their own people and country became muddled. Devoid of a moral compass, advancement through the ranks became the most important thing. They began understanding and empathizing with the enemy more, and even took pride in this, because, as they learned from the Leftist lecturers, such understanding indicates a clarity of mind, and a purity of their hearts and weapons. So it happens that they often function like British Mandate officers, standing as an intermediary between the Jews and the Arabs.
On the battlefield, this is manifested in more casualties among our forces, as occurred in Jenin and the Second Lebanon War. Thanks to sharp public criticism of the army after the Second Lebanon War, senior commanders in the early rounds of war in Gaza who saw their comrades dishonorably discharged, began worrying more about the welfare of our soldiers. Instead of sending them on dangerous missions to avoid harming enemy civilians, they ordered to bombard and strike. This is why in the first operations the death toll was greatly to our advantage and deterrence against our enemies increased, as indicated by the data I mentioned above.
Over time, the fear of public criticism declined, and once again, senior officers returned to their sinful ways. This is how we reached the bitter results of operation ‘Tzuk Eitan’.
Therefore, when the defense establishment emerges from a war with poor results, it must be criticized. Failure to do so takes its toll in human life.
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting and informative articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at: