The writer, a 25-year veteran of the I.D.F., served as a field mental health officer and Commander of the Central Psychiatric Military Clinic for Reserve Soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty, he provides consultancy services to NGO’s implementing Psycho trauma and Psychoeducation programs to communities in the North and South of Israel. Ron is a former strategic advisor at the Office of the Chief Foreign Envoy of Judea and Samaria.
The implications of Netanyahu’s re-election
Benjamin Netanyahu has been declared the winner of an unprecedented fifth term as Israel's prime minister, refusing to be beaten by the combined political force of three former IDF army chiefs; pending bribery and fraud allegations hanging over him; and the combined forces of a hostile broadcast, printed, and digital news media who spent the latter part of the past three years hounding and tarnishing Netanyahu day and night. All have failed to end his political career. Netanyahu, a seasoned conservative politician and a brilliant political tactician, proved once again his ability to lead and overturn what seemed to be a foregone conclusion that he would be ousted.
Throughout the night, initial exit polls had shown that the Likud Party, led by Netanyahu, had lost to the Blue and White Party, led by Benny Gantz. Updated results accounting for the final hours of voting showed Likud leading 35 to 34. The actual number of Knesset mandates will likely change once all votes are tallied and the votes of parties that did not cross the threshold are redistributed. Irrespective of the tight race between the two major parties, the right-wing bloc has won a clear and undisputed majority in the 120-seat Knesset, being swept back into power and forming Israel's new government in the coming days and weeks. Benjamin Netanyahu's path to becoming once again Israel's prime minister will withstand any last-minute surprises as the tallying of votes is completed.
Surprising casualties of the election results were two of the more popular and outspoken right-wing politicians: education minister Naftali Bennett and justice minister Ayelet Shaked, the joint heads of the New Right Party, who appear to have lost their bid to be in the 21st Knesset. At a gathering of his supporters in Bnei Brak, Bennett said he believed that once the soldiers' votes were counted, the party would have enough support to enter the Knesset. "We have always taken care of the soldiers and now they will take care of us," Bennett said. "The New Right will pass, and it will pass very nicely, we just need to be patient. We believe in our path and we will succeed."On the opposing side of the political map, a result of this election is that the Israeli public has chosen to end the historical role and political significance of the Israeli political left, for many of Israel’s voting public, “peace has become a dirty word”. The Likud led platform of Jewish solidarity and support of modern Jewish nationalism based on Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people coupled with unprecedented economic prosperity, has convinced the Israeli public that the Left’s vision of peace, liberal social values, and socialist economic policies belong to the past and have been deemed either as unrealistic at best, or a denial of reality at worst. The never ending conflict with the Palestinians, based on the “land for peace” model is no longer a viable political process due to the unwillingness of the Palestinian leadership to accept Israel’s existence and the continuing terror raising its ugly head all too frequently.
"The Peace Process”, once the dividing line between left and right in Israeli politics has ceased to be an issue. As the realization that a solution with the Palestinians is unattainable in the near future, so too have the fortunes of left-wing parties leading to their apparent electoral demise. The Leftist version of Israeli society has been effectively ended with the re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu to a Fifth term.
An astute observation of the Israeli election results can also have wider implications for the American elections in 2020 and the re-election prospects of President Trump. The results of last nights election show that the Likud’s political strength actually rose despite Netanyahu’s widely media bias espousing politicized accusations and alleged transgressions. The veteran political commentator Yossi Klein has asked in the past “How is it possible that after all the investigations, the suspects, the cases and earthquakes, after everything is out in the open, the Likud gets more than two additional Knesset seats in the polls?” His answer, “It’s been there since the ’50s. It’s no good, it says on the wall. You screwed us then and now we’re getting back at you. Who are ‘we’ and who are ‘you’? ‘We’ are what you once called ‘the second Israel’ and today the ‘periphery.’ ‘We’ are the children of those you threw into all kinds of holes. And who are ‘you’? You are Mapai, you are the police, you are the media, you are the state but we’re punishing you.” Both President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu share a loyal base, which feels cheated, deprived, ignored, swindled and oppressed. As a result, both political leaders have in the past and can in the future give so many disenfranchised voters hope and that their struggles are important and can no longer be ignored.
Only this past week, the month of Nisan has arrived and we celebrated Rosh Chodesh Nisan. Our sages teach us that “In Nisan we were redeemed and in Nisan we will be redeemed in the future.” Many in Israel have no doubt that the elections results have a much greater significance for Israel’s future than just another election.
Gantz as a Trojan horse
To really understand who Benny Gantz is and the type of political leader he might very well be, I want to take us back to October 1, 2000, a day that will forever be remembered as the onset of the Second Intifada. I was personally there, serving in the IDF as the Divisional Mental Health officer of the Regional Command Headquarters and Brigadier General Gantz was my commander. I was present during these critical hours in the operations room when Joseph’s Tomb (Kever Yosef) was under siege and IDF Sergeant Madhat Yusef was shot by Palestinian Arab terrorists.
Madhet Yusef bled to death over a period of three and a half hours during an attack by a mob of Palestinian Arabs at the complex containing Joseph’s Tomb on the outskirts of the 'West Bank' City of Nablus. Israeli forces were only a few minutes away and could have saved him and rescued the remaining soldiers. The Israeli forces were never given the order by Benny Gantz, the Regional Commander, to enter Nablus and save Madhat Yusef. During these intense and nerve wracking hours, surveillance drones buzzed above Joseph’s Tomb broadcasting in real time what was happening below; at the Samarian brigade headquarters, a tank battalion had been assembled and two columns of Merkavot tanks were in place waiting for the order to enter Nablus to rescue Madhat Yusef and the other soldiers under siege in Joseph’s Tomb.
The family of Madhat Yusef belong to Israel’s Druze Community, and have sent their sons to serve in the IDF throughout Israel’s 70 years of existence. They have publicly criticized Benny Gantz and have held him personally responsible for abandoning their son and brother, since he was the senior Commander in place and was ultimately responsible for not giving the order to save Yusef. Why did Brigadier General Gantz not give the order to save Madhat Yusef?
At the time, Ehud Barak, the head of the Israeli Labor Party, was Prime Minister and acting Defense Minister. The Israeli Labor Party, was the chief proponent of the Oslo Agreement, ignoring the dangers and the uptick in Palestinian terror already taking its toll on the Israeli public as a result of the Oslo Agreements. Nablus is part of the Palestinian Authority created by Oslo and in theory, according to those agreements, the Palestinian Arab police force was in charge. Despite the warnings of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud Party, the leftist Labor Party was willing to demand sacrifices from the Israeli public so that the Oslo Agreements would be implemented. Did this willingness to save the Oslo agreement at any cost permeate the IDF’s top brass? Did the withholding of the order to save Madhet Yusef on the part of Brigadier Benny Gantz reflect a politicization of what should have been a purely operational decision?
Gantz had in the past expressed sorrow at Madhat’s death, but asserted that dispatching a rapid rescue force would have led to many Palestinian Arab casualties and that only the commanders at the scene could fully grasp all the considerations. Can we and should we assume that “all the considerations” include pressure from Ehud Barak to refrain from any action that could escalate and endanger the Oslo Agreement. In retrospect it seems that giving the order to send in a battalion of tanks or order in Black Hawk Helicopters would most likely have resulted in many Palestinian Arabs wounded and dead, leading to the cessation of the Oslo Agreement and causing Ehud Barak and the Labor Party to lose public support for their leftist agenda. From this sordid event that has tainted the IDF for close to two decades, we can make reasonable assumptions about Benny Gantz, the politician in the current election cycle, in which he has bent over backwards to present his political party as belonging to the political center. His candidacy has been supported by all of Israel’s mainstream media, broadcasted as well as printed. Israel’s liberal elite and old guard have all come out in support of Gantz. All bastions of leftist ideology and in direct opposition to Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud conservative political platform.
In today’s political jungle, political policies are expedient and don’t really matter. Media advisors help their candidates to present their policies in the same manner as a product is branded, aiming to reach the largest audience of consumers in this case voters. In this election cycle it seems as if Benny Gantz has enabled his PR advisors to operate by guessing what the public want to hear and shaping his political message in accordance to it. In this manner, we get for all intents and purposes, a political candidate who looks majestic like a horse, but in actuality is a Trojan horse of the left.
Benny Gantz has zero experience in statesmanship, no real economic education or understanding of how the global market operates, no real understanding of Israel’s role in being a world leader in innovation; technology, food production, medicine, water preservation, and the list goes on and on. One would never know about Benny Gantz’s lack of basic knowledge or experience needed to be the leader of Israel by listening to the media. Authenticity is irrelevant, identity politics is a thing of the past, for all intents and purposes those who vote Gantz will be voting for a candidate who has been marketed as sparkling, shiny, and something new for the Israeli public to digest. Nothing like a new and improved product, irresistible!
Benny Gantz the politician does what he is told to do. From speaking with respect for the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and immediately afterwards condemning Netanyahu who served as an officer in Sayeret Matkal and risked his life many times over in operational missions, and get this; for honing his English while Gantz was laying his life on the line. One could sense the discomfort on the part of Gantz, he knew that he was reading a script written by a media advisor and it had nothing to do with the truth, but he did it anyway.
If elected, Benny Gantz will do what he is told to do. He will play a role dictated by advisors, senior associates, and political partners. Benny Gantz has never been a maverick nor exhibited an ability to dictate policy. He has always been a team player and takes “into consideration” viewpoints of his team who by the way are clearly in the leftist side of the political map. Benny Gantz will abandon any semblance of being in the center soon after the elections and will be only the most recent Trojan horse on behalf of those that who want to oust one and for all Benjamin Netanyahu from power.
Lowering the bar on Politicians of Color
The time has arrived to break the silence on the unprecedented expression of hatred against Western values and America’s economic prosperity. It is also time to break the silence on the unprecedented anti-Semitic rhetoric proudly and unashamedly expressed by the Democratic party’s trio of elected Congresswomen; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar. Underlying their rhetoric of hatred is a basic lack of identification with the nation that afforded them unparalleled opportunity and instead act as if they were elected to the House of Looney-Tunes, in which Roger Rabbit is head of the Treasury and Alibaba is head of Homeland Security. The widespread reporting and largely positive exposure by the mainstream media for this Democratic dream team has given legitimacy to their anti-American, and anti-Semitic beliefs.
The absence of moral indignation can only be explained by a morally corrupt and intellectually dishonest Democratic Party and mainstream media who operate under the belief that there can be no expectations from Politicians of Color to embrace the idea of American exceptionalism or measure up to the high expectations of Western morality. When Cortez voices her beliefs against American economic prosperity, she does so exclusively through the Pavlovian looking glass of socialistic economic theories despite the widespread poverty, and undemocratic regimes that claim to be socialist. When Tlaib and Omar freely express their blatant anti-Semitic and anti-Israel beliefs, they do so by blurring the distinction between their hatred of Jews and their hatred of Israel; two sides of the same coin. Why does this trio of Politicians of Color express so many hideous thoughts and beliefs about Jews and not be driven from the public spotlight? Would they be as nonchalant if a politician not of color would express support for a commonly accepted practice in Sudan, the former homeland of congresswomen Omar, where 97% of the local woman are forced to undergo the primitive and savage procedure of female genital mutilation (FGM) usually at an early childhood age,; I seriously doubt the Democratic Party nor the mainstream media would tolerate this even for a moment.
Never demanding accountability from Cortez, Tlaib, or Omar is not an expression of a willingness to support free speech but simply a reluctance to expose and explicitly condemn the idiocy of Cortez’s Green New Deal or condemn the savagery so prevalent in Palestinian society and Islamic countries so easily ignored and denied by Tlaib and Omar. This sugar coating by the Democratic Party and the mainstream media is nothing more than the racist bigotry of low expectations of Politicians of Color who are held to standards lower than other mainstream politicians. Despite Cortez, Tlaib, and Omar having no shame in expressing their hatred of Jews, this was the response of the Democratic leader Pelosi during a MSNBC town hall recently,“I'm not in the censorship business. I don't like that language, I wouldn't use that language, but I wouldn't establish language standards for my colleagues.”
This reluctance to expose and explicitly condemn this trio will only empower and perpetuate poverty, the hatred of American society, and increase anti-Semitism. It was the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who declared at the Riverside Church in Manhattan in 1967. “We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak,” and added “A time comes when silence is betrayal”. Now is the time to end this deafening silence, a silence of betrayal, and began the arduous task of exposing this trio for what they represent; a manifestation of low expectations all under the banner of political correctness run amok.
To stand up and demand accountability from Politicians of Color we must begin by learning from the past. During the 20th century, masters of propaganda like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels made lying a cardinal backbone of everything that was expressed by their leadership. Goebbels’ technique was based on one assumption: “A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.” In other words: if you lie, lie big. For our trio, these politicians of color have become accustomed to lying and do so without even a flinch or murmur. Their support for discriminatory actions and boycotts of Israel despite Israel having one of the best records of upholding human rights while at the sometime supporting doing business with the worst human rights offenders in the world, is nothing less than empowering the big lie, and doing it over and over again.
Out of the trio, the Democratic Party’s Tlaib especially stands out and known for her use of venomous language against America, President Trump, Jews, and Israel even catching veteran broadcasters by surprise. Always seeming to forget that she was elected to the House of Congress of the United States, she expresses total support and affinity for the Palestinian cause, even though Palestinian terrorists, acting in the name of "Palestine," have killed numerous Americans, both Jews as well as Christians. Yet when American Jews support Israel, she is at the forefront of accusing American Jews of dual loyalty. It is both bigoted and hypocritical to apply a different standard to Jews who support Israel than to Muslims who support the Palestinian cause. Due to the bigotry of low expectations of Politicians of Color, Tlaib is never called to order by her Democratic bosses and the mainstream media always gives her a free ride to exposure.
This past week Rep Ilhan Omar had no problem with expressing blatant anti-Semitic accusations that referenced stereotypes about Jews and money and alluded to the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee allegedly paying off Republicans to support Israel. Omar’s accusations are totally detached from reality and only show how uninformed she really is resulting on calls to have her removed from the powerful Foreign Relations Committee. No one with her anti-Semitic views should be allowed to represent US foreign policy on that committee. This is how Politicians of Color should be held accountable for their unacceptable behavior.
Whether we discuss the suggested Green Deal of Cortez, based on an idiotic proposal to end air travel and to ban cow flatulence for starters or focus in on the uninhibited anti-Semitic statements by Tlaib and Omar, they are only the symptom of the problem. As long as the Democratic Party and the mainstream media continue to say nothing and do nothing and essentially go along with these ideas that have nothing to do with environmentalism and human rights but everything to do with promoting socialism and authoritarian societies, Politicians of Color will continue with their crusade of destroying America from within the halls of Congress.
Strategic goals define Israel’s response to Hamas, not headlines
Over the past week, pundits in Israel have lost no time in labeling Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu as the big losers in the latest round of rocket terror by the Hamas terror organization occupying the Gaza Strip adjacent to the Southern border of Israel. Their scoreboard of winners and losers being spewed out minute by minute had only one goal; to create an atmosphere that will weaken Netanyahu politically and topple his right-wing government.
This past week Hamas fired nearly 500 rockets and assorted projectiles into Israel over a period of just under 24 hours. Around 60 Israeli’s were treated, most suffering from anxiety and trauma, several wounded critically, and one civilian was killed. Several homes were damaged, some will need to be rebuilt. For the sake of comparison, during the same week a fire in California decimated 100,000 acres of prime residential communities, over 60 residents in the area died a horrible death, thousands of homes burned to the ground, and 600 residents are still missing and unaccounted for as firefighters go through the burned out hulls of some of California’s most prestigious real estate communities.
Many in Israel have resonated a sense of frustration in response to the Israeli government’s decision to walk away from a war with Hamas and accept a ceasefire negotiated by the Egyptian government. They do not understand why Israel did not respond with a far greater force and teach Hamas and the Islamic Jihad a lesson that would keep them quiet for an extended period. The government of Israel sufficed with a few hundred pinpoint air attacks and then opted for a ceasefire.
Trying to understand the strategic thinking behind the government’s decision demands firstly that we accept some basic assumptions; Israel is the strongest nation in the Middle East and her military capabilities are militarily superior by far to any nation or non-state organizations surrounding her. Second, many of Israel’s home grown offensive military technologies are unknown to her enemies and have been developed clandestinely to respond primarily to the rocket and missile threats of Hezbollah, Iran, and other non-state threats in the region. Third, the political and military leaderships of Israel are neither irresponsible nor cowards, they operate within defined strategic objectives.
Hamas is a terrorist organization that has political control over the Gaza Strip. Hamas wants to achieve relevance after twelve years of governing Gaza with nothing to show for it other than undrinkable tap water and 40% unemployment. They are funded and controlled to a certain extent by outside sources primarily the Republic of Iran who use Hamas as a proxy agent against Israel. The use of rockets and missiles against Israel has been largely ineffective against Israel yet allows the Iranians to understand Israel’s defensive capabilities and ability to respond to this threat. During the past week as almost 500 rockets rained down on Southern Israel, the Iranians learned that Israel’s anti-missile defense system were portrayed as deficient in responding to this massive barrage. Iran uses Hezbollah, the terror organization in Lebanon in a similar manner, however the major difference being that Hezbollah’s rocket and missile arsenal is reported to number around 150,000 missiles and rockets, ten times the rockets held by Hamas.. The Iranians have developed their missile attack doctrine based on lessons learned from the repetitive attacks from the Gaza Strip on Israel, including this past week.
Despite the sheer quantity of rockets and missiles aimed at the State of Israel, the current anti-missile defense system employed by Israel provided a sufficient protective umbrella to protect and destroy most of the rockets that could have reached populated areas, yet for the Israeli public in the South, it wasn’t enough. This was the perception that was amplified repeatedly by the media and social media so as to erode Netanyahu’s and the Likuds’ support in the South. The narrative adopted by the media, and the opposition political parties’ only enflamed the residents of the South and enshrined the perception that Hamas won and Israel lost. It also empowered the Iranians to make all the wrong assumptions and operational conclusions about Israel’s true capabilities. A significant psychological warfare success for Israel.
Whether we want to admit it or not, the Hamas conflict in the South is a strategic side show and should not be confused with the major strategic threats challenging Israel. The guiding principle behind Israel’s “meek” response this past week was to keep her potential military cards unexposed. A known veteran military columnist this past week wrote an article about Israel’s new generation of anti-missile technology, largely unknown to the public, and is based on laser technology and operationally able to provide the necessary umbrella to deal with tens of thousands of missiles threatening Israel. Netanyahu’s real concern is the Iranian threat and especially Iran’s role in Syria and Lebanon. Exposing this capability in a strategically insignificant conflict with Hamas would have been a strategic blunder. Netanyahu is astute enough to avoid this trap even at a political cost and erosion of support among the Israeli public that ensued.
Today’s wars are not only fought on the battlefield but also and it times primarily in the virtual world of social media. Terror organizations have a commanding advantage since all their actions are choreographed towards eliciting media outlets and social media to convey their perspective in a sympathetic perspective. The false narrative projected makes the strong weak and the weak strong, the aggressor as a victim and the victim as the aggressor, blurring the distinctions between right and wrong, good and bad. Yet when push comes to shove, reality kicks in and Israel does not have the luxury of making strategic mistakes.
Given the Iranian focused regional strategy, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government must never be side-tracked from this existential threat. Rather than giving Israel’s democratically elected government the benefit of the doubt, Israel’s political opposition have no hesitancy in sacrificing Israel’s strategic capabilities while using this tactic to gain electoral support. At the same time, Israel’s government must continue providing the residents of the South maximum protection and the necessary financial incentives to soften the effects of the ongoing reality that they have to endure for the near future.
Tomorrow Israel may not have the option of walking away as occurred this past week, when that time is upon us, Israel must be ready to decimate her enemies and prevent serious damage to the State of Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu understands this and managed to retain Israel’s potential strategic capabilities unknown to our enemies.