(October 3, 2018 / JNS) The ongoing squabbles between the defense and security ministers should stop now, for the sake our country and its people.
This bickering may very well compromise the state’s security by empowering Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, and it may ultimately undermine the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet’s work and the whole concept of collective responsibility by the government.
I find it very strange that right-wing ministers are all too willing to give the leftists in the media a sharp weapon, and that those leftists are all too happy to pit one minister against the other hours on end.
Any levelheaded person could tell you that military operations are decided based on what the top brass and intelligence officials recommend.
It is unthinkable that the defense minister would launch a military operation unless the Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff was convinced of its merits and its operational viability.
Yes, sometimes the military has internal disagreements among its top brass, but it is nonetheless a hierarchical body and ultimately the chief of staff’s views are what count. Moreover, anyone who criticizes the defense minister on operational matters is essentially criticizing the military.
A member of the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet can of course express his dissent with the military’s views and may offer alternative courses of action, including daring and creative ideas.
But on matters of state security, it is not up to the public to weigh all those actions. Israelis are not a jury, and this is not a courtroom, where they have to side either with the military or with the ministers.
A minister who has failed to persuade his colleagues on a matter of principle or grave consequence can resign from the Diplomatic Security Cabinet, or can step down as minister and wait for elections to be held, when the public will either vindicate or reject his views.
Ministers have collective responsibility. Score-settling may unravel things and take us back decades, to a time when prime ministers had a literal kitchen cabinet or an exclusive room on their ranch where they made consequential decisions we all paid dearly for.
The ongoing terrorism through incendiary kites from the Gaza Strip is indeed annoying and frustrating. We all feel the pain of the communities who have seen their fields go up in smoke.
But we must all come to terms with the fact that to truly eradicate this terrorism—the only course of action—is to recapture the Gaza Strip. However, this would cause the loss of an exponentially higher number of lives than the current casualty rate. The underground tunnel system in Gaza is much more complex than we see above ground. Targeting those tunnels with massive airstrikes would put Israel in a very bad place on the world stage.
The dilemmas are clear, and the Diplomatic Security Cabinet must weigh the options and decide. Those decisions must override any personal or electoral consideration.
As we approach critical decision points on national security, we must let reason and responsibility prevail. The background noises must be ignored; let’s save those noises for the 2019 general election.
Dr. Haim Shine is a faculty member of Israel’s Academic Center of Law and Science, and a member of the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors.