by Brig. Gen. (res.) Zvika Fogel
It is not enough to have a pair of boots, blue eyes and a knife between one's teeth.
It is embarrassing to see senior officers humiliated by low-ranking politicians who have never led a battalion in a charge against an enemy position but are experts in organizational manipulation. It is no less painful to watch as the generals' war is waged through the use of military terms that do not suit the forms of expression and conduct of the political swamp.
Those who purport to be civilian leaders must understand that the weapons that worked when it came to tunnels and rockets are irrelevant in a house of parliament, where one's finger rests on the voting buzzer and not the trigger of a gun.
To be honest, we senior military officials do not necessarily grasp the written and unwritten rules of the political playing field. IDF elbowing is unlike political intrigue, and military trickery does not prepare one for party busybodies. In practice, only those who have been successful politicians in the military can possibly succeed in surviving the Knesset and go on to become party leaders. Only someone who in their military service knew to say "X" but do "Y" has a chance at making it to the Prime Minister's Office. It is not enough to have a pair of boots, blue eyes and a knife between one's teeth. A general who wants to succeed in the political battlefield needs to be able to look the public in the eye and paint a beautiful picture that both he and the public know is unlikely to come to fruition.
Senior officers are for the most part moral people who aspire to greatness and are armed with command skills. But in order to manage a political campaign and establish a coalition in the political imbroglio of ego and interests, a different kind of experience is necessary. In politics, there are no esprit de corps, and the snakes in the bushes are more poisonous than those slithering around Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv. If a general wants to make a political alliance, he would be wise to do it with professional politicians who have completed their "Introduction to Campaign Primaries" course with honors. Unlike the merging of military forces, in politics when two like-minded parties join up they are sometimes equal to less than the sum of their parts.
All former commanders and generals who enter politics hope to imitate the success of late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. But unlike the rest, Sharon traveled the bumpy road and could have taught a masterclass on Israeli politics. The late minister and IDF Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, former Labor party leader and now Hatnuah party member Amram Mitzna and even former Prime Minister Ehud Barak got to know the dark side of politics and consequently lost a great deal of the respect and dignity they had worked so hard to earn. The late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who made it to the top and was hugely popular, is another example of a former chief of staff who experienced the agony of being undermined by his so-called "friends."
Ideologies aside, I suggest that anyone who purports to be the next prime minister first take a deep breath and patiently work on establishing themselves in the political arena. It is unpleasant and even embarrassing to see courageous commanders who have high opinions of themselves press up against the political display window as if they were for sale at a campaign shopping mall. As senior commanders, our desire to continue to take responsibility and contribute to the state is worthy of praise. But those who are not experts in the political field are damning their image to hell. And this pretentiousness does indirect damage to their comrades in arms.
Brig. Gen. (res.) Zvika Fogel
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