Kochavi’s appointment: An historic opportunity — before it is too late

It seems that in the past few days everything has been written about the chief of staff’s exchange, a criticism from the right of the one leaving, a criticism from the left of the one entering, and another former chief of staff who is running at the head of a new party. This is precisely the time to focus on the two critical issues of the Israel Defense Forces that have been abandoned in the last 10 years and which are the duty of the incoming chief of staff to lead a significant change in order to provide them with a proper and comprehensive response.

First, an example: At the beginning of a lecture to 12th graders and MKs, I challenged them with the question “What is a moral army in your opinion?” The answers that come up are “humane”, “human rights”, “unarmed civilians”, “purity of arms”, and more.

In order that the army be moral, the first rule is that it must win, and if you don’t feel connected to the word “win”, then it can be phrased as ‘must protect its citizens.’ If an army maintains human rights and the purity of arms and other important values that should not be taken lightly, but fails in its role and its citizens are slaughtered in the streets or explode on buses – this is not only an operational problem, but also a much more serious moral problem. The real turning over. If questions about “reducing damage” arise before the questions about how to achieve the goal – we are in trouble. First to win and to protect the citizens, and after we have marked the goal, we must examine how to do so while taking into consideration the other values.

This week, an excerpt from statements made by former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz was publicized, describing how as chief of staff during  Operation Protective Edge, he decided to delay the Golani soldiers’ attack on terrorists barricaded in a hospital in Gaza. Despite the fact that upon  examination, it became clear that there were no patients and/or medical teams in the area, Gantz prevented the soldiers from returning fire before re-checking – at a real risk to the lives of the soldiers. “We took a risk at the expense of Golani soldiers, personally, and once again we made sure there was no one there, and only after we did the whole process again did I order to attack,” Gantz said and raised an argument.

Gantz’s remarks are a small example of a huge illness that must undergo a full root canal treatment. Ganz is not the point here. It began before him and followed him. But now Kochavi has the opportunity to remind the commanders and soldiers, what is the egg and what is the chicken, what comes first.

The second and not less significant challenge facing Kochavi is the war over the microphone. When senior generals have been talking about “containment” for years, rather than “deciding”, it is only natural that this also permeates those who need to stand at the forefront of the war of awareness. Again, a small example will illustrate the story. About two weeks ago, the New York Times published an investigative story accusing Israel of the killing of Palestinian paramedic Razan Najjar during the violent demonstrations on the Gaza Strip fence. The response of the IDF Spokesperson’s Office was not long in coming – “the MPCID is conducting an investigation into the circumstances of Razan Najar’s death. Upon conclusion of the investigation, its findings will be submitted to the Military Advocate General’s Office”. Read and disbelieve. A democratic state with an orderly army and clear orders is conducting a campaign against a murderous terrorist organization whose success indicators are Jewish dead children, and instead of putting responsibility on those responsible for these violent incidents, the IDF spokesperson chose to respond as they did. An alternative proposal: “Hamas initiates these events and uses children and women and even paramedics as human shields in order to try to harm IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens. The IDF regrets any harm to those who are not involved, but Hamas is responsible for harming Palestinian civilians”. A military police investigation should be opened, and even if one should open up, woe to us if this is our propaganda argument for the world.

Kochavi must change the public perception of information from the root. The IDF’s attention is on the enlightened world, but forgets that both Hamas and Hezbollah watch CNN and read the New York Times. Such responses signal to the terrorist organizations that they are in the right direction. Now this is a historic opportunity before it is too late – Kochavi must point the right direction and move the ship towards a safe and true destination.

About the Author
Avihai Shorshan is the director of the "My Truth" organization, which gathers reservists and soldiers in order to bring to the public eye in Israel and abroad the true story of the IDF fighters when dealing with the terrorist organizations.