The IDF’s Duty Is to Defend the Jewish State, Not the Politics of Its Loudest Protestors

During the contentious debates this year over the Israeli government’s plan to reform the judicial system, there have been several statements by military reservists that they will refuse to attend their scheduled training sessions in protest. Most notable was a declaration to this effect by a group of elite pilots. Kobi Michael and Gabi Siboni explain why this tactic erodes the health of the Israeli body politic—as well as of the IDF:

The very fact of the threat—and certainly its implementation—nurtured the protest, whereby their actions injected a militaristic dimension to the protest and politicized the military, punctured the confidence that the political echelon and large portions of the Israeli population have in the military, undermined the values of volunteerism and unity within the IDF, and eroded Israel’s image of power and its deterrence. Their actions could lead Israel’s enemies to the false belief that this is an opportune time to strike Israel and to hasten an unwanted war.

The failure of the senior military leadership from the outset to sever the IDF from the protest and from the political realm means that the train has already left the station, creating a much greater problem for the military. [As a result], the IDF has been turned into a political tool and actor, as the culture of refusal to serve (according to the protesters: refusal to volunteer, and not refusal to obey a mobilization order; in our view: a unilateral violation by the reservists of the rules of service they agreed to is a refusal to serve) and media coverage of the phenomenon are viewed as an attempt to frighten the public and the political echelon in order to undermine the ability of the government and the Knesset to continue with the legislative process, to challenge the legitimacy of the government, and even to bring about its downfall.

Anyone who is anxious for the future of Israeli democracy must feel some discomfort when reservists drag the IDF onto the political field and into the heated political and moral debate over the essence of Israeli democracy, and when there are those who want to turn it into the “Democracy Defense Forces.” This is a clear militarization of the political space as much as it is a politicization of the army. Those fearful for the future of Israeli democracy must consider that while today the current protest against the judicial overhaul is led by reservists with a specific ideological outlook, tomorrow could see a protest against the government led by reservists with a very different set of values.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: IDF, Israeli Judicial Reform, Israeli politics, Israeli society

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood