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David I. Cohen

Profile in Courage

In 1956, then US Senator John F. Kennedy wrote a book profiling a number of United States Senators, who showed unusual courage in being consistent with their moral and ethical beliefs, despite their personal and political belief.  The story of one particular Senator, Edmund Ross of Kansas, has stayed with me, decades after having read the book.  President Andrew Johnson survived his 1868 Senate impeachment trial by just one vote. The political trial was engineered by the “Radical Republicans” in order to punish Johnson for not following their orders. Senator  Ross, one of the Republicans, cast the deciding vote, and for all purposes, he was expected to vote against Johnson, up until the night before the final roll call. The chamber was stunned when Ross said “Not guilty”, supposedly, according to Kennedy, voting his conscience instead of following the party line. (Other historians dispute whether Ross’s motivations were so altruistic.

Which brings me to events here in Israel over the weekend which continue to unfold.  In the Israeli parliamentary system, individual members of the Knesset are not elected independently, but are elected by their place on the party list. They are beholden to the party and its leadership.  Party discipline requires that they toe the party line in all votes or face legal and practical consequences.  Enter Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.  His responsibility as Defense Minister is to insure the safety and security of the country through his overall supervision of the IDF.  The judicial “reform” proposals put forth by the ruling coalition have had an adverse effect, rightly or wrongly, on IDF capabilities, as many volunteer reservists are refusing to continue volunteering, claiming that without an independent judiciary, they have no protection if they are given illegal orders, and could be subject to International Criminal Court prosecution.

Gallant saw that a solution to what could become a security crisis would be to bring a halt to the headlong rush to pass the “reform” and to try to reach a compromise with the advocates and the opposition. At first, he approached the leader of his party, Bibi Netanyahu, to warn him of the danger and to try to convince him to pause the legislative push. Netanyahu ignored Gallant’s warning. Gallant now had a choice: fall into line and follow along like a good boy, or do what he thought was right, come out in public against the Prime Minister’s and the coalition’s position, and face the consequences. His public speech last Saturday night, choosing to warn that the headlong rush to pass the “reform” would be  a serious mistake and a security danger, in opposition to the position of his party and Prime Minister,  was followed swiftly by Netanyahu firing him.

So, for doing what he felt was correct, despite the violation of party discipline, we now have an Israeli candidate for inclusion in the Profiles in Courage. Bibi, for all his accomplishments, won’t even get an honorable mention.

About the Author
David I. Cohen was a State's Attorney in Connecticut for 37 years , serving on the Management, Technology and Capital Crime committees. He was an instructor in talmud at Bi-Cultural day School in Stamford, CT. He made aliya in 2015.