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Posted by on Jul 25, 2006 in At TMV | 2 comments

A Voluntary “Putsch” In Israel?

The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz has a fascinating piece by Yagil Levy, professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, about the role of Israeli’s military in the current Middle East crisis. Here’s the lead in:

In Israeli historical memory, two incidents have been metaphorically defined as a military “putsch”: the pressure applied by Israel Defense Forces generals on then prime minister Levi Eshkol to embark on the Six-Day War in 1967, and the |quiet putsch” as journalist Ofer Shelach termed the behavior of the army at the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Nevertheless, neither of these resembles the move that led to the start of “Lebanon War II.”

On July 12, 2006, the Israeli government decided to bring about “a new order in Lebanon” by means of a massive military attack, which would cause the Lebanese government to disarm Hezbollah, or at least to remove it from the border with Israel and to deploy the Lebanese Army in its place. Like the expanded goals of “Lebanon War I,” an attempt is being made here to reshape Lebanon’s fragile political order by means of force.

In the history of the relationship between the political and military leaderships of Israel, the government has never made such a significant decision so quickly, operating in crisis mode just a few hours after the kidnapping of the soldiers. Under these circumstances, the military contingency plan was the main plan presented to the ministers, if not the only one. As absurd as it may sound, the government decision to embark on the Lebanon War I in 1982 was the result of a longer and more orderly decision-making process.

He is critical (but thoughtful-critical not the lash-out-critical that has become so customary in America’s talk-radio-infected political discussion these days) and here’s another meaty excerpt:

The lack of time also prevented the possibility of looking into the diplomatic option of the “package deal” for implementing UN Security Council Resolution No. 1559; this option was proposed by the UN a few months earlier, and included a deployment of the Lebanese Army in the south in exchange for Israeli concessions.

It is also reasonable to assume that under such conditions, the Foreign Ministry and the National Security Council cannot present alternative viewpoints. And, of course, in all the excitement, the Sharon-Mofaz-Ya’alon doctrine of restraint was in effect delegitimized, with no serious attempt made to examine whether it was worth preserving.

Even if we assume that the price to be paid by the home front was clear to the cabinet, it has exposed the citizenry to real danger in exchange for what has been presented as the removal of a future threat – but without providing a possibility of conducting a public discussion on it.

Of course once again we are reminded of a fact: Israel — just as the United States, various ethnic groups, political ideologies — is not monolithic. There are differing opinions within that country. Anyone interested in the Middle East (no matter where they stand on it) should read Levy’s piece in its entirety since, at the very least, it provides a framework for further debate.