Benjamin Netanyahu Ratchets Up the Conflict Between Israel’s Politicians and Military
It’s a dangerous inversion: In Israel, according to Ronen Bergman in his analysis for The New York Times, the relationship that Benjamin Netanyahu and other politicians are cultivating with their country’s military and intelligence leaders is one in which the wrong side is making the case for caution.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer last week of the post of defense minister to Avigdor Lieberman, a pugnacious ultranationalist politician, is the latest act in the war between Mr. Netanyahu and the military and intelligence leaders, a conflict that has no end in sight but could further erode the rule of law and human rights, or lead to a dangerous, superfluous military campaign.
The prime minister sees the defense establishment as a competitor to his authority and an opponent of his goals. Putting Mr. Lieberman, an impulsive and reckless extremist, in charge of the military is a clear signal that the generals’ and the intelligence chiefs’ opposition will no longer be tolerated. Mr. Lieberman is known for ruthlessly quashing people who hold opposing views.
This latest round of this conflict began on March 24: Elor Azariah, a sergeant in the I.D.F., shot and killed a Palestinian assailant who was lying wounded on the ground after stabbing one of Sergeant Azariah’s comrades. The I.D.F. top brass condemned the killing. A spokesman for Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, the chief of staff, said, “This isn’t the I.D.F., these are not the I.D.F.’s values.”
But right-wing politicians backed Sergeant Azariah. “I.D.F. soldiers, our children, stand before murderous attacks by terrorists who come to kill them,” the prime minister said. “They have to make decisions in real time.” Mr. Lieberman, then still the leader of a small far-right opposition party, turned up in military court to support the soldier. Mr. Netanyahu also called the soldier’s father to offer support.
An I.D.F. general told me that the top brass saw the telephone call as a gross defiance of the military’s authority.
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