A VIRUS CALLED DEFEATISM

By Yohanan Ramati



The infection runs deep. If it persists the IDF will become useless and Israel's survival doubtful.



ALMOST simultaneously, the Israeli public learned (1) that Yitzhak Rabin had given President Clinton an undertaking to cede the Golan and 20 percent of theKinneret to Syria in return for some security arrangements and normalization, and (2) that there has been a sharp decline in the motivation of young Israelis to serve in the IDF and enlist for combat units. The two things are intimately linked.

When timid politicians squander the fruits of victory; when the media exalt peace treaties to the point that words on paper and foreign guarantees (likely to prove worthless because of Western economic and strategic interests in the Arab states) become more important than the land we must defend; when both recent Labor prime ministers openly declared that we couldn't afford another war because there would be too many casualties in Tel Aviv, is it a wonder that our young people lack the motivation to do army service?

And if the Labor premiers' declaration reflects the considered opinion of our General Staff can one expect that staff to inculcate motivation in others? The reason IDF motivation has dropped among secular school pupils in the big cities is that very many of them are affected by four years of untrammelled and cumulative peace propaganda. And their reasoning is quite logical. If the PLO and Syria are no longer enemies, if their case is just, why fight them? Why not simply give them what they want?

Among religious nationalists, luckily a growing part of the population, motivation to serve is still in evidence. Yet instead of the General Staff being manned with such men, key command positions have been reserved for left-wing generals, most of whom are basically defeatist.

How to eradicate this defeatism, disguised as peace talk, with which Labor leaders, Meretz and the media have systematically fed the minds of our youth, our journalists and many high-ranking army officers, is a critical and burning question. For if the phenomenon persists the IDF will become useless and Israel's survival doubtful.

OSLO has already demoralized us to the point where OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Shlomo Yanai could openly express admiration for Yasser Arafat in an interview just days after Arafat ordered the Palestinian police to kill soldiers under Yanai's command -- and not be cashiered. He even declared: "I do not consult with the political echelon." In this atmosphere of "anything goes" Gen. Oren Shahor, conducting negotiations with the PLO on the government's behalf, reported on them to and probably consulted with opposition leaders.

He was suspended, but instead of getting an immediate dishonorable discharge is awaiting the results of an inquiry. What Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak ought to be doing is examining the motivation of the generals around him and their loyalty to the government of Israel (legally elected, without benefit of the Arab vote) before coming out with statements about the motivation of 18-year-olds who have been served the repeated message that Arafat is a friend and Netanyahu an enemy of peace; and that haredim who want to close a Jerusalem road on Shabbat endanger Israel more than the PLO and the Arab states who covet the entire city.

Meanwhile Netanyahu himself must share the blame for the sorry state of public morale. He appointed a defense minister more concerned with pleasing the General Staff than with putting the IDF in order. And there's plenty to do. Defeatism and disloyalty among senior officers can be dealt with only by replacing those affected by it. There are far too many accidents and irresponsible acts in the field. High-ranking officers rarely take responsibility for failure, shifting it downwards. Witness Ehud Barak's behavior over the Tze'elim disaster. If Yitzhak Mordechai is incapable of dealing with such problems, he must give way to someone who can. As for defeatism and disloyalty among senior officers, that can be dealt with only through replacing those affected by it.

If the Labor and Meretz parties encourage their supporters in the armed forces, the secret services or the Government service (including state-owned electronic media) to be disloyal to the legal government, this something very close to treason -- especially when the object is to help the Arabs gain their political goals. The law defines treason very clearly. Disrespect to a past Prime Minister is neither treason nor incitement -- even if he was assassinated. But actions designed to deprive the state of land under Israeli law -- e.g. Golan Heights and Jerusalem -- are treason punishable with death. The Supreme Court decided that land under Israeli law is land under Israeli sovereignty, but has evaded the obvious conclusions -- perhaps because they would affect politicians whose political opinions are similar to those of most of the judges.

The opposition says war may come within the next few months. It is probably right; yet it is helping the enemy to surprise and perhaps defeat us by continuing its peace propaganda in the Knesset and the media.It advocates defense budget cuts and demands that the IDF top brass remain above criticism, when what we need is just the opposite.

To win a war we need a General Staff that regards the Arabs as enemies, not as friends or partners. Once that is the case, our youth's motivation will take care of itself. (c) Jerusalem Post 1996

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Yohanan Ramati is head the Jerusalem Institute for Western Defense.

[A shortened version of this article was published in The Jerusalem Post on November 19, 1996.]