Netanyahu may have found an opportunity to take revenge on the old IDF elites, but in doing so has put one of Israel’s most hawkish politicians in charge of the occupation.
Avigdor Liberman’s appointment as defense minister is, in my eyes, one of Netanyahu’s most surprising moves (in fact, on Wednesday I argued that it wouldn’t happen; two hours later I was proven wrong). Netanyahu is a careful politician that does not like big egos surrounding him, and Liberman is Liberman — a person who deliberately chooses to be unexpected and undisciplined — even when it doesn’t serve his interests — and who spews hawkish remarks in spades.
Liberman promised to take down Hamas and execute terrorists — and all this before we blow up Egypt’s Aswan Dam, as he once famously suggested. I do not think that anyone in Israel wants to fully re-occupy Gaza, but Liberman has too many promises to fill, and an electorate that runs the gamut from traditional right-wingers to Kahanists. This is disturbing. Even for Netanyahu it’s not an easy bet, since Liberman has serious political ambitions and can always leave the coalition right before the elections, claiming that Netanyahu prevented the IDF from going all the way, or by fueling smaller fires that may serve his interests.
So why did Bibi do it? In my opinion it has little to do with the recent comments made by Deputy Chief of the General Staff, General Yair Golan or the soldier in Hebron who shot a Palestinian in the head — two recent incidents in which the prime minister did not back Defense Minister Ya’alon. In fact these only provided Netanyahu the opportunity to get rid of Ya’alon, whose support from the Right has all but disappeared.
The great fracture between Netanyahu and the defense establishment stems from their disagreement over Iran, and the insubordination that occurred or did not occur during Gabi Ashkenazi and Ehud Barak’s tenure. The story is that former Director of the Mossad Meir Dagan and head of Shin Bet Yuval Diskin revealed that in 2010 the army and the Mossad were given orders to prepare for an attack in Iran, although it remains unclear whether it was an explicit command. Ashkenazi and Dagan either “opposed” or refused the order — depends who you ask. After that came the wars between Ashkenazi and Barak, and the torpedoing of...Read More