When we're talking about the chief of staff, we're talking about the IDF. When we talk about the IDF, we have some tears in our eyes, pride mixed with concern, and recently, some disappointment and question marks that the new army chief may be able to address.
I remember different days, the excitement when my father, Moshe Dayan, was appointed as chief of staff. Some of the same norms and criteria exist to this day. The army chief is the first among soldiers; he is at eye level and demands of himself what he demands of others, all the way.
This is unpleasant but should be said: Today, the army is no longer a means for achieving various secondary objectives, as it was in the past. It's not a "melting pot" and not an industry featuring cups of coffee and inflated discussions.
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The army has a clear goal and nothing but: Preparing the forces for combat, winning wars, and protecting the population. This is what Gabi Ashkenazi will have to do. The rest is the results: Regaining the public's and the troops' faith in the military, de-politicizing the IDF top brass, and the necessary combination I believe he possesses – a commander displaying fatherly concern, humane courage, and attentiveness to all levels.
Today there's immense importance to the "perception of the enemy," and not only in terms of nuclear Iran but also when it comes to the cursing settler in Hebron and the soldier manning a roadblock. In my view, the chief of staff leads us to victory during war but should also lead to the creation of conditions for peace, reconciliation, and cooperation. There's no standard recipe.
My father said (about Sharon in the Mitleh battle) that he prefers to restrain wild horses than to motivate lazy mules. There was also talk of a "small and smart" army. Essential and moral issues were added as a result of the nature of the war on terror, and as the military is in charge of the occupied territories, and will also be tasked with evacuating them if (I hope) the need will arise.
I don't think an army chief should sleep well at night. I don't think that dropping a one-ton bomb on a residential home is a "slight bump" to the plane's wing. I think that a chief of staff must be brave, a hero, a warrior, smart, and creative – Gabi Ashkenazi certainly possess all those qualities. But I also would like to believe that he boasts a moral, humane system of values that is not distorted by generalizations and urges.
Hump of occupation
The military is an army meant for defense and for combat purposes. The terrible hump placed on its back – serving as an army of occupation – is the main disengagement objective. The political move cannot be undertaken by the army chief, but he can and must make the moral and practical preparations for it. He needs to qualify the army and equip it for a war of no choice, but not for thuggary and arrogance.
Gabi Ashkenazi may have to lead the evacuation of the West Bank, yet he also needs to train an army that would be able to fight terrorists without hurting the population around them. Ashkenazi will have to learn to get rid of all the disgraceful procedures that clung to the occupation.
He will also have to perform rehabilitation work, yet do it without haughtiness and wasting money, but rather, in depth and stingily. He will have to work vis-à-vis, and with, and under failed, inexperienced politicians and maintain his cool and wisdom.
Gabi Ashkenazi is not an unknown quantity. He already met various tests. Yet he is facing a test right now, as a result of current circumstances and realities. He will not have the alibi of "I didn't know" in the next war, which cannot be yet another story of defeat, failures, and amateurism. He will also not have the alibi of "I didn't realize" if he contributes to a security situation that pushes us further away from peace and dialogue.
And on a side-note that is important to me, I turn to the army chief-designate and ask that he safeguard the dignity of female soldiers – their status, promotion track, special needs, and personal safety.
Former MK Yael Dayan is the daughter of former chief of staff Moshe Dayan