According to a report in Ha’aretz, Gabi Ashkenazi, the Israeli Defence Force Chief of Staff who has recently visited the US, said during his visit ‘that while Israel was interested in exhausting diplomatic options against Iran's nuclear program, the army must nevertheless prepare itself for a military attack’.
Israel is fond of frequently telling the world that it is the only real democracy in the region yet here is its unelected military commander visiting Israel’s greatest ally espousing what is essentially Israeli policy toward Iran.
If Ashkenazi had said something to the effect of; ‘Israel is preparing itself for the possibility of an attack against Iran if our government exhausts all diplomatic options against Iran’s nuclear program’ then (leaving aside any argument about why Israel is telling the world that Iran’s nuclear program is a threat to them in the first place), such a statement would have been acceptable from even a military officer of a truly democratic nation. In this instance Ashkenazi would simply have been speaking as a messenger. However, in the original context as reported, Ashkenazi is displaying himself more as a political decider empowered to negotiate with the US about issues of Israeli foreign policy.
Now, this may seem like nitpicking and, if it were in isolation, it would be just that and it would not have been mentioned. The fact is though, it is not in isolation and Israel has a long history of its military playing a significant role in its political affairs. Indeed, many of Israel’s political leaders have come from military backgrounds; most notably Moshe Dyan and Ariel Sharon. Other military leaders have also been extremely influential in Israeli politics above and beyond merely offering advice to political leaders in the government. Both Dyan and Sharon before they became political leaders fell in to this category, while Dan Halutz, Israel’s defence chief during the 2006 Lebanon War also was politically influential though his failure to meet Israel’s war aims of destroying Hezbollah and occupying Lebanon up to the Litani river, aims that he himself had been a part of defining, eventually cost him dearly. Failure in Israel is rarely tolerated.
The military still have a very powerful political role to play in Israeli politics. It has the power to censor the media about its activities. It can enforce this censorship without recourse to the government unless the government changed the laws – which it would be unlikely to do on account of the military’s extensive influence. Since Israel seems always to be at war with somebody or another Israeli’s get to hear very little about some of the more unsavoury aspects of Israel activities against their enemies except as anti-Arab or anti-Palestinian propaganda.
Zionism dominates Israeli politics and Israeli ‘democracy’ tends only to revolve around the Zionist concept. Virtually all the political parties that are represented in the Knesset are staunchly Zionist. This means that Israelis get the opportunity in the main to vote only for Zionists with the only differences between them being the method by which a Greater Israel can be created and/or the concept of a Jews-only apartheid racist state can be maintained. The rest of the trappings of ‘democracy’ in Israel are a façade. The military of any true democracy acts only in strict accordance with the instructions of the government. How the military operates is generally left up to the military but it does so within a framework clearly defined by government only policy. A military should advise on how best to achieve a governments desired outcome but not on what that outcome should be which is what Ashkenazi was advocating.
Israel, among other so-called ‘democratic’ nations, is a classic example of how the concept of the separation of powers has all but disappeared – to the detriment of humankind the world over.
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