The mounting public criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by past and present members of the Zionist state’s defense and intelligence establishments triggered the recall of a comment made to me by one of its former Directors of Military Intelligence. The comment was: “If we had a government consisting of only former DMI’s, we’d have had peace with the Palestinians long ago.”
I must confess (and do so cheerfully) that I can’t remember which of two former Israeli DMI’s said that to me. It was either General Chaim Herzog, one of the founding fathers of Israel’s Directorate of Military Intelligence who went on to become the Zionist state’s ambassador to the UN and then its president, or General Shlomo Gazit, the best and the brightest of them all. In private conversations with me both men were refreshingly honest.
Herzog, for example, said the following to me on the second day of the June 1967 war:
If Nasser had not been stupid enough to give us a pretext for war, we would have created one in a year to 18 months.
But it was Gazit who hit the nail of truth most squarely and firmly on the head in one of our conversations.
For about two decades he was the head of research at the Directorate of Military Intelligence. Then, in 1973, he was called upon to become DMI, with a brief to overhaul the agency to make sure there could never again be an intelligence failure of the kind that had occurred in the countdown to the Yom Kippur war. He was, in short, the man to whom the government of Israel turned for salvation in the aftermath of what it had perceived at the time, wrongly, to be a real threat to the Zionist state’s existence.
Over coffee one morning in early 1980 I took a deep breath and said to Shlomo (then Major General Retired): “I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all a myth. Israel’s existence has never, ever, been in danger.”
Through a sad smile he replied: “The trouble with us Israelis is that we’ve become the victims of our own propaganda.”
The latest and widely reported public criticism of Netanyahu (and all of his leadership colleagues, Defense Minister Ehud Barak in particular), was voiced by Yuval Diskin, who retired last year as the director of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, the equivalent of America’s FBI and Britain’s MI5.
Diskin told an audience in the central Israeli city of Kfar Saba that he had “no faith” in the ability of the current leadership to handle the Iranian nuclear threat.
I don’t believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings… I have observed them from up close… I fear very much that these are not the people I’d want at the wheel.
Diskin was even more explicit and damning in his criticism of the Netanyahu government’s dealings with the Palestinians. In response to Netanyahu’s assertion that the peace process is stalled because he does not have a willing Palestinian partner, Diskin said:
This government has no interest in talking with the Palestinians, period. It certainly has no interest in resolving anything with the Palestinians, period.
The bad news for past and present members of Israel’s defense and intelligence establishments who are aware that Netanyahu is leading Israel and quite possibly the region and the world to disaster is that all the signs are that he, the deluded Netanyahu, will win Israel’s next election and remain prime minister. As the Ha’aretz headline put it, Netanyahu the clear favourite heading into Israel’s upcoming elections.
The analysis and comment under that headline was written by Yossi Verter. As he put it:
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can rest easy after reading the results of the latest Ha’aretz-Dialog poll. Not only does he trounce all his rivals on the question of who is most fit to lead the country, but an absolute majority of Israelis reject the aspersions cast on him last week by former Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin. Judging by this poll, Netanyahu is the only candidate with a realistic slot of becoming prime minister after the election slated to take place in another four months. Asked which candidate is most suited to hold the job, 48 percent of respondents said Netanyahu. That is considerably more support than the other three candidates received put together.” Shelly Yacimovich, Labour’s leader. got only 15 percent support; Avigdor Lieberman, Yisrael Beiteinu’s leader, only nine percent; and Shaul Mofaz, who recently replaced Tzipi Livni as Kadima’s leader, only six percent.
Also worth noting are some of the statements Livni made in her resignation speech.
Israel’s leaders, she warned, are putting the country’s existence at risk by choosing to ignore the mounting impatience on the part of the international community. She said: “Israel is on a volcano, the international clock is ticking, and the existence of a Jewish, democratic state is in mortal danger. The real danger is a politics that buries its head in the sand, and it doesn’t take a Shin Bet chief to know that.” (In my view the fact that Israel is neither a Jewish nor a democratic state does not rob Livni’s warning of all of its significance. And I imagine she is in complete agreement with Verter who wrote in an April article for Ha’aretz that “Israel is becoming a pariah state because the extreme right has taken it over almost entirely.”)
It is possible, even probable, that Livni was forced to stand down by Mofaz because of her unwillingness “to sell the country to the ultra-Orthodox” (her words). She was not sorry, she said, for her refusal to give in to “political blackmail” on that account.
She also said: “And I’m definitely not sorry for the main issue I promoted – even if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t in vogue right now, there’s an urgent need to reach a permanent agreement with the Palestinians as well as with the Arab world,”
A good and necessary question is the one posed by Yoel Marcus in his latest article for Ha’aretz. He wrote:
“The big riddle is what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was thinking when he decided to move up the elections. Why not elections at the scheduled time? After all, another year and a half in a safe government is nothing to sneeze at. In addition, he is running the country with a solid majority of 65 seats. Nobody can bring him down.”
Marcus’s conclusion was this:
“As we approach the last minute to decide on Israel’s character, Netanyahu is aiming at a resounding victory in the elections to be in a better position to do nothing.”
Doing nothing will mean, among other things, letting Zionism’s colonization and slow but sure ethnic cleansing of the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem continue.
Netanyahu knows that to do that he will need to be in the strongest possible political position at home to tell a second-term Obama to go to hell if he dares to use (or even thinks about using) the leverage he has to oblige Israel to be serious about peace with the Palestinians. And that, I think, is the key to understanding the real reason why Netanyahu is going for early elections.
As Ari Shavit put it in his article for Ha’aretz, “The prime minister of Israel is determined to get to the Israeli election booth before the president of the United States gets to the American election booth in November.” Shavit told his readers that it’s not unknown for American presidents to use their influence during Israeli election campaigns to improve the prospects for an uncompromising rightwing prime minister being replaced by a more pragmatic one. Netanyahu knew that he could be exposing himself to that risk if he did not seek a new mandate until months after Obama had been re-elected.
The question that takes me back to my headline is this.
Given the apparent certainty of a Netanyahu election victory, and if a second-term Obama won’t or can’t use the leverage he has to oblige Israel to be serious about peace, is there nothing that can be done to stop the countdown to a Zionist-made catastrophe for the region and possibly the world? (The question would still be relevant in the unlikely event of Mitt Romney defeating Obama). In other words, is there anything that could be done to change the dynamics of what is happening in Israel?
My answer is determined by my understanding of what the real problem in Israel is.
The shortest possible description of it (the real problem) is in Shlomo Gazit’s response to me 32 years ago –
The trouble with us Israelis is that we have become the victims of our own propaganda.
From the best and the brightest of Israel’s former Directors of Military Intelligence that was and remains a statement of awesome significance, verbal “shock and awe” one might say, but it needs some unpacking.
The expanded main point is that the vast majority of Israeli Jews have been brainwashed by their political leaders and, as a consequence, believe a version of history about the making and sustaining of what used to be called the Arab-Israeli conflict that is simply not true.
The two biggest of the many propaganda lies Israel’s political leaders have told their people are
(1) that they have lived (and still live) in constant danger of annihilation; and
(2) that Israel has never had (and still doesn’t have) a Palestinian partner for peace.
It follows, surely, that what the vast majority of Israeli Jews need if their brains are to be unwashed, something that must happen if they are to be equipped to play their necessary part in giving real peace a real chance, is the truth. The question is – Who could tell them the truth with a reasonable chance of being believed?
In my opinion it is most unlikely that there will ever be an Israeli politician in government, or aspiring to be in government, who will tell the truth. In my opinion there is only one power on earth which could tell it – Israel’s military in association with the state’s various security agencies. And that in summary and principle is why I believe that what Israel needs most of all is a military coup, to put in place for a limited period, not more than one year at the most, a military administration which would be committed to telling Israeli Jews the truth of history as it relates to the making and sustaining of the conflict, and what their real options are. Essentially there are two. Peace on terms acceptable to the vast majority of Palestinians or catastrophe for all.
This truth-telling exercise and the informed and honest great debate it would make possible would set the stage for a referendum, after which the military would hand power back to the politicians who would be obliged to formulate policy in accordance with the wishes of the majority of voters as expressed in the referendum.
If the referendum indicated that a majority of Israel’s Jews had allowed the truth to open their minds and hearts and enabled them to understand that justice for the Palestinians had to be their government’s policy priority, there would be peace. (Initially, and for reasons of realpolitik, it would have to be in the form of a two-state solution made possible by the ending of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the lifting of its siege of the Gaza Strip. But it’s not impossible that, as Arafat hoped, a generation or two of peace based on two states could lead by mutual consent to one state for all, perhaps in a confederation with Jordan).
If a majority of Israel’s Jews wanted to cling on to Zionist mythology and continue down the path laid out by Netanyahu, there could only be catastrophe for all at some point, triggered, probably, by a final Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
As I have outlined it, the merit of the military coup approach to changing the dynamics of what is happening in Israel is that it would give Israel’s Jews the opportunity to save themselves from their deluded political leaders.
What I have suggested makes good sense to me in principle, but I am not presuming that it has a practical application.