Americans should listen to the generals, not Netanyahu

Jews in the U.S who love Israel but disagree with the policies of the Netanyahu government are sometimes taken to task for not supporting Israel. This criticism is coupled with the statement that Netanyahu was democratically elected, and American Jews need to support the will of the Israeli people.

However, the Jewish American community needs to know that a growing number of retired Israeli security experts and IDF generals also harbor criticisms of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s policies.

It is even more important that the next president of the United States and the new members of the Senate and House of Representatives understand this, for they will be responsible for executive directives and legislation that will have a tremendous impact on Israel’s security and survival as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people in the post- Obama years.

According to a recent article in Politico by Amir Tibon, “Netanyahu vs. the Generals,” a great divide separates Netanyahu and many of those who have served under him, including some IDF chiefs of staff, leaders of the Mossad and leaders of Shin Bet. Labor’s Ehud Barak, a former premier and minister of defense, warns that the right-wing government in Israel is showing “signs of fascism,” and if Netanyahu isn’t stopped, Israel is on course to become “an apartheid state.”

Many of the Netanyahu government’s policies are concerning and frustrating to those of us in the liberal American Jewish community.

It is distressing and a bad omen that top advisers to Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, are calling for the GOP to weaken or abandon support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and to embrace illegal settlement activity, while not acknowledging that Palestinians also have needs and rights that must be addressed.

Many Israeli security experts are strong supporters of a two-state solution and believe in working and negotiating with the Palestinian Authority. They recognize that there is no military solution to this conflict.

It is important for American leaders to understand that there is tremendous dissent about these policies among Israel’s veteran security leaders and experts. Of the 17 military and intelligence chiefs who have served with Netanyahu during his term in office, 13 have strongly criticized his leadership and policies concerning the occupation and settlement expansion.

Another major source of disagreement between Netanyahu and some in the Israeli security elite is the Iran nuclear agreement. Netanyahu has strenuously opposed it, going so far as to lobby the U.S. Congressagainst it. Some in the Israeli security establishment have even claimed that Netanyahu exaggerated the nature of the Iranian threat. Israel’s Atomic Energy Agency unanimously endorsed the deal, while Gadi Eisenkot, the current chief of staff, has called it “a strategic turning point.”

As former Israeli intelligence chief Yakov Peri has said, “On two issues – Iran and Palestine – the security establishment’s professional analysis has consistently contradicted Netanyahu’s policies.”

The bottom line is that while Israel is a democracy, and Netanyahu must be respected as its democratically elected leader, it is important that our elected officials recognize these major disagreements within Israel and not simply accept, without questioning, Netanyahu’s assessments and arguments.

Israel’s future is at stake. We must listen attentively to the warnings coming from those leaders in Israel in charge of safeguarding Israel’s security.

This article appeared previously in the Aug.19 2016 Jewish Advocate.

About the Author
Stan Fleischman grew up in Brooklyn NY but has lived in Newton MA for the last 50+ years. He is a retired Software Developer who now devotes most of his energy as a member of the J Street Boston Executive Committee and Chair of its Media Committee. Stan believes passionately in the need for a two-state solution He is happily married and the father of two daughters and three grandsons.