Photo: Gil Yohanan
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira. None of his business
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Ben-Dror Yemini

A strategic attack against ourselves

Op-ed: Judges and legal experts know nothing about wars, nothing about policy and decision-making, and definitely nothing about drawing conclusions. All they know how to do is to look for the guilty party.

The Gaza Strip is controlled by a terror organization with an anti-Semitic platform, which calls for the annihilation of Jews. The international community has tried, time and again, to reach some kind of agreement with this organization. The most outstanding attempt was made by the Quartet (the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia). It didn’t help. Hamas refused.



It favored the industry of death—rockets and tunnels—over prosperity. It acted just like all global jihad organizations act. All they produce is destruction. Every few years it suffers a blow, garners more energy to oil the gears of the industry of death, and drags Israel into another round of fighting.


In the two weeks before the beginning of the latest round, Operation Protective Edge, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly tried to prevent an escalation into an all-out war. The rockets had already begun falling on Israel, but Netanyahu insisted. He delivered the “calm will be answered with calm” speech. The Left applauded. The Right was angry.


Bennett, Netanyahu and Ya’alon. Will this voodoo ritual prepare us for the next operation? (Photos: Motti Kimchi, Amit Shabi, Alex Kolomoisky)
Bennett, Netanyahu and Ya’alon. Will this voodoo ritual prepare us for the next operation? (Photos: Motti Kimchi, Amit Shabi, Alex Kolomoisky)


When the operation began, there were more and more proposals and initiatives for a ceasefire. Netanyahu agreed. Hamas kept violating every agreement. Minister Naftali Bennett, meanwhile, kept objecting to a ceasefire. When the last ceasefire, which ended the operation, was being formulated—Bennett voted against it. “There is no need for a ceasefire, there's need to put out the fire,” he said.


Nevertheless, the state comptroller determined that “the Security Cabinet failed to discuss a diplomatic alternative or the serious humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.” Excuse me? The state comptroller is in no position to deal with an area he has no authority over to begin with. I don’t recall Harry Truman’s cabinet dealing with the humanitarian situation in bombed Tokyo, I don’t recall Winston Churchill’s cabinet dealing with the humanitarian situation in ruined Dresden, and I don’t remember the Obama administration speaking at length about the situation of tribes on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border while they were constantly under fire because of the Taliban hiding in their midst. But the State of Israel’s comptroller sees it as his duty to poke his nose into strategic considerations. Judicial activism has jumped from the Supreme Court over to the State Comptroller’s Office.


I believe, by the way, that the Israeli government should offer Hamas everything: Prosperity, welfare, an end to the blockade, international economic aid, a seaport, an airport, candy for every child attached to every sack of concrete, and other goods of all types. Everything. Under one condition: That Hamas will accept the simple formula of demilitarization in exchange for prosperity. And this should be offered again and again, even though Hamas has turned it down again and again.


But with all due respect, this is none of the state comptroller’s business. It wasn’t just Netanyahu’s offer of “calm will be answered with calm” while Israel was being attacked with rockets but practiced restraint. It continued with 12 offers for a ceasefire during the operation. Israel either initiated or agreed. Hamas repeatedly turned them down or repeatedly violated them. Even a left-wing website wrote at the time about the “remarkable friendship between Netanyahu and the Left.” The comptroller has eyes, but he doesn’t see. He has ears, but he doesn’t hear. What’s wrong with him?


A senior official testified before state comptroller investigator Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Beinhorn, who wrote most of this report himself. It’s not that Beinhorn knows more than the person he was questioning, but he had three legal experts by his side. The official felt like a culprit. That’s the story. Judicialization.


Judges and legalists know nothing about wars. They know nothing about policy. They know nothing about decision-making. They definitely know nothing about drawing conclusions. There is only one thing they know how to do—look for the guilty parties. It’s in their DNA. The procedure they are conducting is adversarial. In other words, argumentative. And that’s what the results look like.


State Comptroller Yosef Shapira (Photo: Zvika Tishler)
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira (Photo: Zvika Tishler)


In the past week, no one engaged in drawing conclusions and learning lessons. That’s what matters, but it’s not interesting. The question that is more interesting is who is more guilty. The result is the “sabre dance.” An inquiry is held to draw conclusions. In an investigation, like the one carried out by a commission of inquiry or the state comptroller, is done to find the guilty parties.


Even before the investigation began, it was clear that this was a procedure with suspects who will turn into culprits. “The report is an indictment,” Opposition Chairman Isaac Herzog said a day before the report was released. He was right, and that’s precisely the problem. We don’t need indictments. We need a change.


This isn't a new thing. It has already become a normal ritual. Every war or operation over the past few decades has ended with harsh criticism. Even if there are recommendations for changes, all anybody deals with is claims made against the individuals. That’s the reason we had to watch an ugly exchange of accusations last week. Hamas is having a blast. Israel is exposing itself to criticism and beating itself up, as well as damning itself for not proposing “a diplomatic alternative.” If such castigation doesn’t come from the outside, by a committee like Richard Goldstone’s, it comes from the inside.


It’s not that all the moves made during the operation were wonderful and all the decisions were perfect. It’s not that there is no room for improvement. It’s not that there is no need for constrictive criticism. But all these necessary things have not been done and will not be achieved by commissions of inquiry or by the state comptroller’s team.


If we were dealing with performance study and improvement, we would not need legal experts. Because legal experts know about wars and strategy and decision-making and performance study as much as I know about pharmacology. Why legal experts? Why not an an expert in the field of military operations? What is the meaning of the unnecessary and foolish judicialization?


The commissions of inquiry that have been appointed since the Yom Kippur War until now have not improved anything. Their practical or operational recommendations have been wrong over time. The Frumkin Commission from 1950 was supposed to deal with the imposition of the “melting pot” as part of the educational system. Its conclusions created separation and different sectors. The Agranat Commission dismissed late Chief of Staff David Elazar. Maj. Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland says that the committee’s conclusions caused irreversible damage. The Or Commission removed former Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami from political life. It didn’t change a thing in Jewish-Arab relations.


These were examples of the march of folly. We are taking part in a voodoo ritual that entails nothing but inserting pins. Is this what is going to prepare us for the next operation? Seriously?


Here’s an assignment for Knesset members who want to think outside the box: A bill that would create an efficient system to study operations and draw conclusions from them, instead of the current legal system. We need politicians and generals to come to these committees without lawyers. We want them to tell us where they erred without having a sword hanging over their head. Because with a hanging sword, a sane person shirks responsibility.


A system that creates indictments and exchange of accusations is not a system that would bring change. We need a sane alternative option, not to save one general or another and not to save Netanyahu or Moshe Ya’alon. We need an alternative option for ourselves.


פרסום ראשון: 03.05.17, 13:45
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