By HaRav Eliezer Melamed
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 doing so, and even avoided dealing with related matters, lest I be too judgmental after 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 a person who has fallen. However, in light of the flood of praises showered on the former Defense Minister as being 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 the pikuach nefesh (the saving of lives) involved – both physical, and spiritual.
The Former Defense Minister
Former Defense Minister, Mr. Moshe Ya'alon, is a professional man 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 to awaken somewhat from the Left's delusions of "peace", and even assisted in the building of Judea and Samaria. Nevertheless, regrettably, he failed in three fundamental areas: in preparing Israel's defense forces in the face of imminent threats; causing damage to national morals and ethics, and 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 minor 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 began serving 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 government leadership had 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 capabilities 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 plans – they even lacked updated maps. The soldiers were sent to the frontlines without proper equipment, and endangered their lives in order to salvage 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 failure 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 took a hostile stance in relation to basic, national values. Perhaps 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 dishonored his name in all of the media, denounced him as a murderer, and directed the legal battle against him, he caused damage to the people of Israel. Not only did he betray the soldier Elor Azaria, but all the troops he sends into battle, for they too are liable to make similar mistakes 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. 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 all, obedience with army laws and regulations is constantly improving. Compared to today, the behavior of the Palmach fighters and combat units in the IDF's nascent days was infinitely wilder and crueler.Now of all times the Deputy Chief of Staff detects symptoms reminding him of the Nazis?! And then, 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 give permission to grow a beard for religious reasons was taken away from the Rabbinate, and given to the Adjutant Corps. Meanwhile, with the Defense Minister's encouragement, 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.
At the same time I've been banned, due to my fundamental belief 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 indicated a severe blow to Israel's sacred values. Ya'alon would not dare do that to any mosque, in which violence, murder, and the destruction of the State of Israel is preached a thousand times over.
This goes hand-in-hand with his disgraceful treatment of his Deputy Minister, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan. Rabbi Eli is known as an affable man, able to cooperate with various groups of people. Despite signed agreements, however, Ya'alon chose to ignore and humiliate him, and by doing so, also demeaned his constituents, the religious Zionists.
The Connection between the Three Areas
These three areas are intertwined. True, there may be someone who is highly successful in leading the army against the enemy yet neglects national and faith-bound values, and has a long-term, crucial impact on Israel's security. If there are other people who can supplement their lack in values, their professionalism in the field of defense can cover their shortcomings. If there is no one else to compensate for their deficiency, then over a period of time, the lack of values will prevail and lead to severe consequences, such as in the Yom Kippur War.
Seeing as Mr. Ya'alon's functioning in the field of defense was not particularly successful, his shortcomings in the area of values made things all the worse.
Despite realizing the strategical impossibility of implementing Leftist ambitions to establish an additional Arab state, Mr. Ya'alon still clings to the values of the Left, according to which national and religious factors are marginal, or a hindrance. However, seeing as in truth, nationalism and religion are the power base of the Jewish people and the State of Israel, it is preferable that a Defense Minister who does not understand this, 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. In the lack of a moral compass, advancement through the ranks became the most important concern. They began to understand and empathize with the enemy more, and were even proud of this, because, as they had been taught by the Leftist lecturers, such understanding indicates a clarity of mind, and purity of heart and weapons. Thus, they often function like British Mandate officers, standing as an intermediaries between Jews and the Arabs.
On the battlefield, this trend manifests itself in more casualties among our forces, as happened 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 to worry more about the welfare of our soldiers. Instead of sending them on dangerous missions to avoid harming enemy civilians, they ordered bombing and air strikes. This is the reason 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 arrived at the bitter results of operation 'Tzuk Eitan'.
Consequently, 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: http://en.yhb.org.il/