To the Israeli Press, Pronouncements by Generals Are Non-Political So Long as They’re Politically Correct

February 25, 2019 | Gershon Hacohen

Over the years, some former Israeli security professionals—retired generals, heads of the Mossad and the Shin Bet, and so forth—have come out strongly in favor of plans for the Jewish state to cede control of all or part of the West Bank. When they express such positions publicly, their views are inevitably feted in the Israeli and English-language press. But when Gershon Hacohen, a major-general in the IDF reserves, made the opposite case in a recent article, he received sharp criticism from the former Mossad director Shabtai Shavit. Hacohen writes:

Shavit dismisses my opinion . . . as a “political treatise” undeserving of publication by an academic research institute. He derides the BESA Center for Strategic Studies, which published the paper and where I serve as a senior research associate, as “painted since its foundation in political colors, as expected given its [large] number of skullcap-wearing associates.” Had Shavit done his due diligence, he would have quickly learned that even by the parameters of his perverse logic, the BESA Center should be painted by quite different “political colors” given that over 80 percent of its research associates are not “skullcap-wearers.”

This mindboggling stigmatization notwithstanding, this is not the first time I have been accused of subordinating professional considerations to a political agenda. . . . The formula is clear: officers who downplay the security risks of territorial withdrawals do so on “professional” grounds; those who underscore the dangers attending such withdrawals are driven by “political” considerations. . . .

In reality, it is difficult to find national decisions—in the social, economic, political, educational, and security fields, among others—that are completely value-free and made on professional grounds alone. A medical prognosis is a strictly professional matter; public health-policy decisions reflect a socioeconomic worldview and value system.

This in turn means that when former security officials justify far-reaching territorial concessions “because the preservation of certain values overrides the importance of land,” they do so from a clear political vantage point. As such, they have no intrinsic advantage over fellow citizens who hold a different view.

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