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Stop fantasizing about a coup in Israel

As the images of the attempted coup in Turkey flooded the media, some in the Israeli Left began fantasizing about our own version of a military takeover.

Supporters of the attempted military coup in Turkey seen standing atop a tank in Istanbul, July 16, 2016. (photo: Deepspace / Shutterstock.com)

Supporters of the attempted military coup in Turkey seen standing atop a tank in Istanbul, July 16, 2016. (photo: Deepspace / Shutterstock.com)

Along with millions of others across the world, I closely followed the coup attempt in Turkey over the past weekend. Rather than being glued to the television, we stayed up until the early hours of the morning looking at Facebook Live feeds from the streets of Istanbul and Ankara.

No less fascinating was the response to the coup attempt among many of my Facebook friends. Coups, it turns out, are an exciting thing — especially for societies that find it difficult to bring about their own revolutions, and are therefore resigned to observe other nations’ revolts from far away. This becomes all the more relevant when coups try to topple regimes such Erdoğan’s, whose policies vis-a-vis Turkish political dissidents and ethnic minorities have grown increasingly loathsome over the past few years.

And yet there was still something surprising, not to say strange and worrisome, about how quickly some of my friends — with whom I share much in common politically — not only cheered on the sight of tanks in the streets of Turkey, but even went as far as fantasizing about a similar scenario in Israel. For instance, the “Hadar Matzav” Facebook group, which was closely associated with the social protest movement in Israel, published the following status: “Think about this kind of thing happening here, on a Friday evening, army forces spread out quietly in strategic locations, and then at night fighter jets fly so low you can hear them — and suddenly everyone understands a coup is underway.” They certainly were not the only ones.

Their interests, our interests

When people who are politically and socially engaged long, out of frustration, for a popular uprising by tanks and fighter jets, they assume that militaries are neutral institutions, bereft of any interests, which can be used as an “invisible” tool for carrying out the “will” of the people. Let the army take care of the bad guys, they say, and then it will transfer rule over to the people through democratic elections. In their eyes the military is nothing more than an all-powerful robot. The truth is that armies are organizations, and like any other organization they have their own agendas and interests — ones that not only don’t always coincide with those of the public, sometimes they are diametrically opposed.

Israel’s army, for example, has an express interest to not reveal details of the defense budget. So that we do not know how much money goes where, or what we are spending the largest part of the state budget on. Of course this position is expressed in terms of “security,” but this will be, first and foremost, a clear organizational interest that grants the army extraordinary autonomy, which is translated into power. There is no single organization that does not dream about not having to provide reports on how it uses and manages its money. Our interests, as citizens, is the exact opposite: after all, this our tax money, and the ability to oversee the army’s expenditures is directly tied to our ability to oversee the priorities that most affect our lives.

Take for instance the policy of forcing the army’s top brass to retire at a relatively young age. Organizations can only dream of providing their workers with such lucrative conditions. Just say the magic catchphrase: public interest. That way the army can poach the best and the brightest! Yet no one has proven that this method works, and that all those who can start their second career under age 50 under the auspices of the IDF — all while receiving their pension — are our best and brightest. Secondly, who said that that having our best and brightest choose a military career — rather than, say, a career in education or medicine — is in the public’s interest? Perhaps the public interest is that our education system can reward teachers with early pensions?

Longing for military law

The heads of the Arab city Umm al-Fahm, in the presence of Israeli military officials, sign an oath of allegiance to the State of Israel after the city came under Israeli control in the 1948 war.

The heads of the Arab city Umm al-Fahm, in the presence of Israeli military officials, sign an oath of allegiance to the State of Israel after the city came under Israeli control in the 1948 war.

These conflicts of interest become clearer in light of the fact that militaries are not just another organization. Along with the police, it is an organization that has a monopoly on violence. The army is a violent organization. Sometimes there is no other option but to use that violence, but its very nature necessitates far stricter public oversight. This is our responsibility as a citizens — a responsibility that Israeli society has no interest in, out of that very same, dangerous belief that the army’s interests are “transparent” and coincide with that of the public.

Let’s also remember that Israel already instituted military rule over its Arab citizens between 1949 and 1966. This same military regime continues to rule over millions of people in the West Bank. Is this what parts of the Israeli Left longs for? Just before we fantasize about tanks rolling down Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard, ushering in the revolution that the social protests couldn’t bring about, perhaps we can imagine what revolution looks like when it is dependent on an institution whose entire raison d’être is security threats and war.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    1. i_like_ike52

      The “progressive” fantasy that Orly outlines goes as
      “Let the army take care of the bad guys, they say, and then it will transfer rule over to the people through democratic elections”

      But wait, the gov’t they are dreaming of overthrowing by force WAS itself put into power
      by democratic elections! What those hoping for this scenario is really that they DO NOT want a democratically elected gov’t in power unless it is THEIR gov’t. Otherwise, it has no right to be in power and thus should be ousted by force. It seems there is an assumption that once this “progressive” Israeii military junta takes over, they will ban parties such as the Bayit Yehudi, Likud or Lieberman’s party in order to guarantee a “proper” outcome to the promised elecitons. So much for the democratic pretensions of those who are calling for this coup, that thinks in these terms. The word “democracy” may be on their lips, but so was it in Communist East Germany which called itself the “German Democratic Republic”.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “But wait, the gov’t they are dreaming of overthrowing by force WAS itself put into power by democratic elections!”

        Only half true. The 4.4 million Palestinians Israel rules over in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem did not have a vote in those elections. What shall we call the one state this state of affairs comprises? The “Jewish Democratic Republic”?

        “those who are calling for this coup”

        Nope. The verb the writer used was “fantasize.” Not “calling for.” A crucial difference if one is honest about it. If one is not trying to willfully misread the writer. Surely you are not going to tell us that you wish literally to come true, or to act out, every fantasy exercise you engage in in your own mind?

        Reply to Comment
        • i_like_ike52

          What’s wrong with a Jewish Republic? The Palestinians and all the local Arab countries call themselves “Arab states” such as the “Arab Republic of Egypt” or “Syrian Arab Republic” and they all define Islam as the state religion. So why not a Jewish state?

          BTW-The Palestinians had their own elections and they voted HAMAS into power (Abbas through them out in the West Bank, but HAMAS through him out of Gaza) which has promised a war to the death with Israel.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Bernie X

      Stop fantasizing?
      Orly.Stop projecting!

      Reply to Comment
    3. Oriol

      It is not the first time that I read about such a coup. If I may ask as an outsider, is there any remote possibility of an actual military coup in Israel? (I don’t ask if it is desirable or not, but if there is a real possibility of it happening.)
      Thanks in advance.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Bernie X


      No coups. Absolutely not.
      Despite what Leftists and anti-Zionists tell you, Israel is a very cohesive society. It may not look like it is cohesive, but it actually is. For all his complaints, the average Israeli is happy and hopeful for the future. I don’t get why, but its true.

      Oriol Just a word of advice to self described ‘outsider’, don’t get caught up in the I/P vortex. Fine a hobby. Go to the gym. The I/P vortex has claimed too many lives.
      Stay away and you’ll be happier for it.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben

      This is a study in deliberately missing the point. My “Jewish Democratic Republic” or “JDR,” obviously, was meant to connote the concept of a kind of Jewish “GDR,” where the population is occupied and do not get to vote but the authorities keep saying everything is fine. So that the “D” in both JDR and GDR belongs in ironic quotes–you conveyed that by referencing the GDR but pretend to miss it when it applies to Israel. The Palestinians are ruled, for 49 years now, by Israel but cannot vote in Israeli elections. No amount of bluster about their voting internally among themselves, inside the prison cage of Greater Israel that actually rules them, will obscure this fact.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Ben

      And Ike, you’ll love this bulletin from the Israeli “JDR” police state:

      ‘Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has summoned Army Radio chief Yaron Dekel because of the broadcast Tuesday night about Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish – part of a series on formative Israeli texts in the station’s “University on the Air” program.
      “This is a serious issue in which someone who has written texts against Zionism – which are still used as fuel for terror attacks against Israel – is included with his works as part of Israeli society’s formative texts,” Lieberman said via his communications adviser. Lieberman mentioned Naomi Shemer’s song “Jerusalem of Gold” and Natan Alterman’s poem “The Silver Platter,” saying these should not be on the same list as Darwish’s works. “It’s obvious that this is something that constitutes a cultural decline and it’s impossible to continue with business as usual,” Lieberman said.’

      Reply to Comment
    7. Oriol

      Thanks for your answer, Bernie. I never had any doubt that Israeli society is very cohesive. If it weren’t, Israel probably wouldn’t exist right now. I simply read during the last weeks some elusive, rather confusing comments about the possibility / desirability of a military coup in Israel, and I wished to have some native opinion.
      On the other hand, I am not sure that I understand your advice about a supposed “I/P Vortex”. Well, right now I do not have a hobby like, say, collecting red toy cars, but I go often to the gym and I suppose I am a fairly healthy, muscular, middle-aged man. I hope I can go through your vortex unscathed.

      Reply to Comment