As Israel Moves Rightward, Many Are Annoyed Military Isn’t Going With Them

Pragmatic Military Leaders Run Afoul of Political Leadership

by Jason Ditz, May 30, 2016

Yesterday, some 200 former top Israeli military and other security officials issued a policy paper proposing making peace with the Palestinians, including concessions that even the “center-left” political opposition would never dare to articulate.

This is just the latest salvo in a growing war of words between an Israel that is shifting dramatically rightward, and a military that not only isn’t going along for the ride, but increasingly willing, past and present, to dissent from the nationalist line.

Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot has come under growing criticism for saying the military needs to have moral standards, and many political officials have repudiated his comment that he would not want an Israeli soldier to empty a magazine into a Palestinian girl with a pair of scissors.

His deputy, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, sparked an even bigger uproar soon thereafter, when during a speech at one of Israel’s many Holocaust commemorations he warned that he saw similar developments in modern Israel to those which took place in Europe during the rise of fascism.

Maj. Gen. Golan’s comments sparked a flurry of furious condemnations from Israeli officials, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning that it was inappropriate for military officials to express such opinions. Golan was defended by then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, which was seen as the “last straw” in the Israeli far-right government’s ouster of Ya’alon.

The Israeli military has tended toward relatively pragmatic hawkishness over the years, and that used to be enough to keep them in the good graces of right-wing governments. The rightward shift has gone so far, however, that it can no longer brook any expression of pragmatism as it runs afoul of the ultra-nationalist, ultra-hawkish consensus.

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