We have all heard the story of the "Emperor Who Had No Clothes." By some quirk of cosmic fate, we Jews keep acting out this silly story. Many of us looked at the famous "handshake" on the White House (1993) lawn and knew immediately that a hoax was being perpetrated. When terrorist murderer, Yassir Arafat, received the Nobel Peace Prize, we were outraged. The rest of the world celebrated a leopard changing his spots: murderer into peacemaker. We didn't buy that fantasy then, and time has proven us correct in our perceptions.
Last week, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman, Uzi Landau made some devastating comments about the extreme politicization of the Israel Defense Forces high command. In brief, he said that top army officers became puppets of Labor Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. As such they allowed the political delusions (Oslo) of the government to influence their military and strategic judgements. This erosion of military competence, he continues, has put the security of Israel and the very lives of Israeli citizens in mortal jeopardy. This is a very harsh judgement, and sadly, a correct one.
At the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies, I have followed this development with great alarm. In fact, the Freeman Center was founded as as a result of my first experience with the politicalization of strategic thinking. I had met Joseph Alpher, director of the prestigious Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, at an AIPAC meeting about four years ago. That meeting was quite stormy as I disputed most of his analyses of Middle East politics, especially his statement that Syrian dictator Hafez Asad was ready for peace with Israel. Alpher rejected a proposal of mine to do a "Pro/Con" type commentary format in the Jewish Herald-Voice (Houston) and other papers. Although he turned me down, my meeting with him had positive results. It became clear to me that Alpher had access to massive amounts of information, yet could not prevent the politicization of his analysis and conclusions.
I founded the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies primarily to provide the American Jewish Community with an alternative source of strategic
information, free of political bias. One of the reasons for the Oslo disaster was the close connection between the Jaffee Center and the leaders of the Labor government that took office in 1992. This was the first time in more than a decade that the government of Israel has been in sync (politically) with the Jaffee Center. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres no doubt used its findings to justify their drive for territorial retreat. It is also obvious that the Jaffee Center had a political agenda and used its enormous resources and prestige to prove the validity of its political agenda. It would be far better if its research staff would examine the facts and then derive conclusions from those facts rather that vice versa.
A more recent experience of mine with a politically influenced Israeli military officer took place in 1995.The Israel Task Force of the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston along with the American Jewish Committee had the privilege of hearing Major-General Ori Orr speak to us about the "peace process." Orr was then Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Knesset (the very same position as Landau today). We were told that Assad of Syria was impressed with the American high-tech weaponry demonstrated during the Persian Gulf War and from that concluded that he could not fight Israel. Nothing could be further from the truth. Assad noticed the exact opposite: that American was forced, DESPITE a brilliant display of technology, to re-conquer Kuwait on the ground with tanks and infantry. Assad understood that despite his array of missiles, his army would have to cross the Golan Heights to reach Israel. The conquest of Israel and its destruction required the removal first, of the Israel Defense Forces from the Golan, that could block an invasion. This was a terrible dilemma for him until Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin offered to give it to him in exchange for peace' (read increased vulnerability and eventual war). There is a maxim of geo-politics that we should all remember: Strength preserves peace, while weakness (and appeasement) encourage aggression.
Orr made a big point of saying that casualties were less in capturing the Golan in the Six Days War than they were in the Yom Kippur War defending the heights. While these facts are true, he draws the wrong conclusions. During the Yom Kipper War the political establishment failed to listen to intelligence information that the Arabs were about attack. It was the failure to mobilize the army and reinforce the borders which cost so many lives. It is interesting to note that the Labor establishment, including Rabin, who performed so poorly in 1973, were again in control of Israel and already making errors in judgment that have cost many lives. There are certain essential facts which are being ignored in the rush to sign an agreement with Syria. For example, it would take a Syrian T-72 tank less than an hour to cross the Golan and threaten northern Israel. While monitors (US or UN) might give Israel one to three hours warning that Syrian tanks were moving toward the Golan, it takes Israel 48-72 hours to mobilize its army for war. At great cost in lives (Yom Kippur War) the undermanned Israeli forces on the Golan (with help from the air force), held up the Syrian advance long enough for the IDF to mobilize. Orr had no answer for this strategic vulnerability, should Israel withdraw from the Golan.
Orr derided the Likud formula of negotiating "peace for peace." He said that the Arabs would never accept it. So what? If the Arabs need bribes of money (from America) and land (from Israel) then they are not really ready for peace. Why doesn't Orr ask Syria to give up the Golan for peace? "Land for peace" is one of those idiotic ideas that have seized the imagination of everyone who wants Israel reduced in size. Has America ever given up land for peace? Native Americans did it and what did it get them? Nu?
Long ago, these two examples, Alpher and Orr, proved to me the essential truth of Landau's criticism of the IDF. The serious question for those interested in Israeli security is how to move from delusion to rationality in strategic thinking. One certainly must not SHOOT THE MESSENGER of the bad news. The leftist media is already attacking Landau for speaking the truth. We must defend him and insist that the truth of his message be understood. Once we understand the essential truth of his message we must demand prompt corrective action. What that action should be, is well left to Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to decide. Re-education or early retirement for officers, unable able to deal with military realities, are certainly possible courses of action.
I urge all those wo demand excellence and professionalism in the IDF to lend their support to Landau's courageous attempt to reveal the "nakedness of the emperor."
[Author's Note: Dr. Dore Gold, Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was the only one at the Jaffee Center who consistently wrote intelligent, accurate, and realistic appraisals of military and strategic policy. I definitely do not intend to cast aspersions on him with my comments on Jaffee.]
Bernard J. Shapiro is the executive director of the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies and is the editor of THE MACCABEAN.