To hear our officialdom’s mouthpieces, the Yom Kippur riots in Acre didn’t highlight a humiliating failure by the country’s law enforcement authorities. No contrition was aroused by the fact that a lone police car straggled passively behind hundreds of Arabs (many having arrived by organized bus transport, with their faces concealed and wielding axes) rampaging through a Jewish neighborhood in the small hours of the holiest day of the Jewish year.
That epitomized the effort that night to protect unarmed families from the wrath of an incited mob. Only the following night, when faced with a Jewish backlash, did police come out in force. All this isn’t owned up to as embarrassing ineptitude. Indeed, the spin is that it represents a stunning success.
To arrive at that conclusion, it’s necessary first to deny that much brazenly untoward had taken place. To paraphrase the old folksy adage, nobody spat in our collective Jewish face. The moist droplets projected in our direction came from innocuous raindrops. No inordinate harm done and no need to overreact.
Indeed our constabulary not only avoided overreaction, it hardly reacted at all. Not only was organizational sluggishness regarded as nothing shameful, it was in fact lauded. And so the nation’s top cops prodigiously congratulated themselves for the fact that Acre’s mayhem resulted in no fatalities.
Apparently, there’s always something positive to be salvaged from any fiasco. It all depends on what one’s goals are. If the goal is to assert sovereignty, protect innocents and deter marauding bullies, then the police indisputably fell down on the job. But if the goal is to avoid another commission of inquiry – like the one premier Ehud Barak established to pander to the Arab vote after the October 2000 violent uprising by Israel’s own Arab citizens – then the police did fabulously well.
Triumph for our defenders – be they in police or military uniform – as well as for our political honchos isn’t to defeat the potent enemy but to cover their rear ends. It isn’t the country and the populace which must be safeguarded but the guardians’ personal careers.
THIS IS the core cause for the loss of confidence in our leadership and for the insecurity we all sense – whether we admit it or not. These failings evolved over years in which Aharon Barak’s Supreme Court emasculated other branches of government and subjected quintessential military decisions to skewed legal review. No residue of independent or daring thinking survived among police higher-ups after Ehud Barak’s Or Commission blasted them for foiling the 2000 murderous insurrection synchronized with an external foe.
This “take-no-risk/responsibility” mindset was the chief culprit for the Second Lebanon War’s shortcomings, as well as for the dangerous breakdown of law and order in Acre. Nothing will get any better so long as the Supreme Court empowers itself to aggressively second-guess every battlefield call, every reaction by every cop and every measurement by security-fence engineers.
Israel will keep getting weaker and more vulnerable so long as never-vetted and unelected judges continue to impose their opinions imperiously in the name of democracy and actively meddle like impartial imported observers in our life-and-death struggle. Our security forces will stay in their paralytic incapacity so long as the overriding consideration of generals and commissioners remains to save their private necks, to avoid entanglement with judicial panels and/or character assassination by an agenda-driven media.
In colloquial Hebrew this attitude is dubbed a “small head.” It has gained broad societal sanction. Parents unabashedly raise their youngsters to be prudent, not to get involved, to avoid confrontation, to aspire to little more than “a small head.” Little wonder that compliant commanders glory in the unexceptional rather than seek victory. They desire to contain conflicts rather than win them.
That’s why they consented to the May 2000 midnight flight from Lebanon (which generated that year’s October riots). That’s why they demonstrated such timidity and indecisiveness in the inevitable Lebanese rematch of 2006. That’s why they collaborated in the expulsion of Gush Katif, and why they are willing to cede the Golan to one of the world’s most treacherous regimes. That’s why they agreed to escapist cease-fires in the North and South, allowing fanatic terrorist quasi-states to rearm, reorganize and amass deadly rocket power.
IMAGINATIVE MANEUVERS and strategic surprises are the last thing to be expected of this plodding lot. Anything beyond minimal requirements is too tall an order. How fitting it was that the American self-help volume Who Moved My Cheese? was presented by Shaul Mofaz, when he was chief of General Staff, to his officers. Its central theme is fear of and adjustment to change. It had been mass distributed to corporate executives abroad to encourage them to avoid dissent “and move with the cheese.”
Then-OC Medical Corps Brig.-Gen. Arye Eldad (now National Union Knesset member) excoriated “the elevation of so superficial a text to the hallmark of our motivation.” Upon his departure from the IDF more than eight years ago, Eldad dispatched a letter to the General Staff accusing it of “lack of professionalism” and warning that “a terrible danger threatens – a new Golden-Calf administration. It could condemn our military to alarming mediocrity” and eject from its command “the most brilliant, innovative and original individuals, only to remain with those who conform to the system.
“The worship of administrative tools and their sanctification is advanced via the propagation of new gospels which are shameful in their shallowness and an insult to intelligence. Organizational psychologists now become contractors of new Bar-Lev Lines erected inside our defense forces.”
Eldad pointed to petty conventionalism, evasion of accountability and a collective passing of the buck “at a time in which the Zionist vision appears to be dimming. Democracy, as High Court justices conceive of it, overrides Zionism. The masters of justice tie our hands and disarm us. Those in charge of our judiciary operate as if they are in another country or come, detached, from outer space.”
Eldad’s admonitions, though not intended for publication, stirred a tumultuous media tempest in their day, exhorted and amplified by the Left. It pilloried Eldad, just as it had sanctimoniously censured him after the recent Yom Kippur for warning that “nobody should be surprised if Jews take up arms to defend themselves while the police do nothing to protect them.”
Unconscionable indeed. Bungling apparatchiks, self-serving bureaucrats and political purveyors of panaceas would rather not be forced to seriously wrestle with appointment-jeopardizing and organizationally challenging unpleasantness (even if nationally life threatening). Assimilating the catchphrases of the powers-that-be is better geared to their promotion prospects. It’s far better to insist, contradictory evidence notwithstanding, that the spit in Acre was rain. All they need are umbrellas.
(The second of two parts)