Israel is the best country on earth for kibitzers (suppliers of unsolicited advice), for gloating critics who carp from the sidelines, for second-guessers and omniscient Monday-morning quarterbacks, whose hindsight is forever flawless.
This might be just a local curio or cute cultural quaintness, were it not translated into legal monkey wrenches thrown persistently into the machinery of all too many operations of state.
It perforce makes running Israel, even on a mundane daily basis, exceedingly difficult. Without mincing words, Israel is the worst country on earth for policymakers and policy-implementers at all levels of our hierarchy.
We all know of the ordinary soldiers, whose lives are on the line, but who are dogged (contrary to our much-maligned image overseas) by legal strictures to the point that it’s often said that our military personnel – at all ranks – would be well advised not to venture forth without the accompaniment of a lawyer.
This is true for civilians as well – particularly in the executive branch of government. Their every judgment call is apt to come back and haunt them. Seemingly, there’s no decision that isn’t liable to be reviewed by the state comptroller and, worse yet, by a state or judicial panel of inquiry.
As with front line troops, this has a paralyzing effect on the government as well. The fear of retrospective evaluation fosters timidity. It becomes less risky not to make a move than to make one.
This isn’t to say that nothing should be subject to judicious appraisal. It was right to look into the dismal lack of preparedness for the Second Lebanon War. Yet it bordered on the grotesque to blame government fiscal policy for the dreadful loss of life in the 2010 Carmel fire – a tragedy that resulted directly from mistakes made on the spot by some of the police top brass who themselves sadly paid with their lives for their human error.
The state comptroller’s decision to delve into the causes for the current budgetary deficit is only the latest example of the preposterous alacrity to investigate with arrogant reproach after the outcome of a particular episode is already known.
It takes little wisdom to know post factum what should have been done a priori.
The comptroller is like someone looking at a maze from above and seeing all its intricacies stretched out before him. It’s no big feat to figure out the correct path from that overhead vantage point. But from ground level, and in real time, the government can only see baffling forks in the road, with no way of knowing for sure the upshot of opting for a given alternative.
At worst, after the 2011 populist “social-action” happenings on our streets, Israel’s economic leadership proved itself weak-willed. To placate the hardly hard-pressed masses, it caved into too many of their demands at a time when tax revenues were decreasing. Ironically, those who now most vociferously clamor for an investigation were those who most hoarsely then demanded the extra expenditures for such “vital” causes as taxpayer-funded babysitting services.
The real economy was in excellent shape (it still is) but – as in any household – a spending spree during an income slump cannot but result in a shortfall. There’s nothing sophisticated about this arithmetic.
Is this truly what the state comptroller should dwell upon? It would be, were the government suspected of actual malfeasance – if corruption were alleged or any egregious conduct that sharply departs from normative policy-making (regardless of whether said policy was patently unsuccessful and predictably so).
But except for anarchist and communist demagogues, no one suggests that. This leaves us with a legitimate controversy, one that the voter should weigh in on. Parliamentarians and media commentators have every right to debate and fulminate against the Treasury’s missteps. This is the stuff of public discourse.
But is this proper fodder for the comptroller? Is this seriously what an official state inquiry commission should be set up for, as many in the opposition insist?
It’s not easy to avoid the conclusion that the only reason for the state comptroller’s interest is political pandering of the same cowardly sort that impelled the government two years ago to imprudently loosen the state’s purse strings and accede to demands for luxuries that the Israeli collective couldn’t afford – never mind how popular they were.
The distastefulness of this inquiry is underscored by what no state comptroller or official inquiry commission in this country ever analyzed – the Oslo fiasco and its disastrous Disengagement derivative. What turns unexceptional malfunctions into bona fide subjects for review but allows mammoth failures to escape official scrutiny?
The question is accentuated by several inherent factors. First, both Oslo and Disengagement were facilitated by gross transgressions.
Oslo was born in sin. As then-deputy foreign minister Yossi Beilin later openly admitted, he sponsored contacts in Norway with PLO representatives against the law, without authorization and behind the government’s back. This should have sent his boss, then-foreign minister Shimon Peres, into a red-hot rage.
Instead, Peres – never one to reject subterfuge – peddled Beilin’s dodgy merchandise to then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin – never the strongest of personalities – took the easy way and let Peres bamboozle him. Thereafter, having made a ruinous bet, Rabin tried to recoup his losses by throwing more good money after the bad.
He did so not only recklessly but quite unethically too. Nearly two decades on, few recall that Oslo wouldn’t have come to pass had the Rabin administration not bought the support of two opposition Knesset members to win it a minimal parliamentary majority.
Adding insult to injustice was the fact that MKs Gonen Segev and Alex Goldfarb were elected on the right-wing Tsomet list. The voters who ushered them into the Knesset opposed everything that Oslo represented. But Segev was appointed minister of energy and infrastructure and Goldfarb a deputy minister with a Mitsubishi at his disposal.
Disengagement was fraught with illegalities. Prime minister Ariel Sharon ran against the very policies he later espoused. He brazenly cheated his electorate and, to boot, his motives were highly suspect.
Facing corruption charges, Sharon was powerfully incentivized to suck up to the media and the judiciary. The one surefire way to make himself likable was a policy about-face. Very leftist pundit Amnon Abramowitz explained that at that point Sharon became the Left’s etrog – the Succot citron that is protectively wrapped in cotton-wool and stored safely in a covered box.
There was plenty more. Sharon further swindled his Likud voters subsequently as well. He called for a referendum on Disengagement whose result he vowed to honor no matter what it was. He lost the referendum unambiguously but then, in impudent violation of his previous undertaking, he ignored it.
He then proceeded to stifle opposition in a suppressive manner never witnessed before in this country. He orchestrated a campaign of vituperation against any dissenters. Finally, he split the Likud and disparaged as rebels those who had faithfully adhered to the party’s electoral platform. He even defrauded the 10,000 evacuees he expelled from their homes.
All that seemed to merit no investigation by anyone.
It gets worse. The calamities spawned by Oslo and Disengagement weren’t unexpected. Those whom Rabin haughtily dismissed as “propellers” and “Hamas accomplices” had predicted precisely what would happen, though even they couldn’t imagine quite how dire the consequences would be. Those whom Sharon demonized as outlaw rebels had also predicted precisely what would happen, though they too couldn’t imagine quite how dire the consequences would be.
Rabin and Sharon didn’t venture into unchartered territory without an inkling of what they were about to bring crashing down on all our heads. That they wrought debacles is incontrovertible by any measure.
Oslo sent this country into a still-ongoing downward spiral. It created a Palestinian entity that’s accepted as a legitimate state globally at the expense of Israel’s own legitimacy and security.
Oslo made Israel a pariah among the nations, demoralized Israel’s populace, undermined its confidence in the justice of its cause and unleashed upon it terror from all directions. It cost us thousands of casualties – dead, wounded and maimed for life. It forced us into defensive operations and strategies that only further tarnish our image abroad and weaken our case.
Disengagement exacerbated all of Oslo’s congenital ills. On a silver platter, it handed a priceless victory to the worst of Gaza’s jihadist fanatics. Disengagement catapulted Hamas to power and created on our doorstep an Iranian proxy armed to the teeth with all manner of rocketry. Not only is the immediately adjacent South vulnerable to Hamas barrages but, thanks to Disengagement, Hamas missiles can now inflict pain on the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.
Due to severe recurring attacks, successive Israeli governments had to resort to military operations against Gazan aggressors. Not surprisingly, this intensified the slanderous propaganda against our self-preservation. We keep plummeting from bad to worse in an apparently inexorable headlong freefall.
Honestly, is this not worse than a budgetary deficit? What is wrong with us? Are our priorities so incorrigibly skewed that we compulsively probe valid – if misguided – monetary management but overlook huge eminently illegitimate course changes that continue to still exact an awful price from us?
For those fixated on pocketbook preoccupations, it might also serve to point out the incalculable economic cost we all bear for the nearly 20 years of an aggravated threat against our survival that Oslo triggered.
Is there any logic to what is being investigated and what is not? Why are lesser failings being so neurotically inflated and dissected while colossal catastrophes are being studiously disregarded?
The only, inescapable rationale for this mindboggling reality is that although the Left is consistently banished by the voters to the opposition, it nonetheless continues to constitute the solid rock of this country’s establishment. Its sway over our closed and self-perpetuating judicial, journalistic and academic cliques is indisputable.
Hence all our investigative zeal focuses exclusively on what the Left expediently deems outrageous. Conversely, the Left’s pernicious pet projects – like Oslo and Disengagement – are worshiped as sacred cows, unreasonably immune from scrutiny.