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Smotrich is right

We don't need an investigation to tell us that General Halevi failed utterly and shouldn’t be involved in deciding the IDF’s future
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi speaks to Border Police officers in the West Bank, March 15, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi speaks to Border Police officers in the West Bank, March 15, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

In Israeli Hebrew, there is a phrase everyone knows: to blame the Shin Gimel. The Shin Gimel is the guard at the gate of an army base, the final (and lowest) level of security. To blame the Shin Gimel means that when something goes wrong because the officers in charge of the base failed in their duties, the guy at the bottom of the totem pole gets blamed and the people on top go Scott-free.

I don’t know if there is a phrase that describes the opposite of the Shin Gimel Syndrome, namely blaming only the person at the top of the chain to the exclusion of everyone else. That is what is going on now and a story currently in the news illustrates this problem perfectly.

A few days ago, an intelligence officer in the IDF resigned (or was told to resign or else) when it was discovered that he was having an affair with a lower-ranking officer, a clear violation of the rules. What is particularly interesting is that this officer was described in the Hebrew press as being one of the officers directly involved in the October 7th intelligence failure. However, he wasn’t thrown out because of his failure to assess Hamas’ plans. His skills were too important to the war effort and any punishment would come later. Suddenly we find out that he isn’t needed. The IDF can go on without him. (Note: I am not saying that he should have been allowed to stay.) Yet as of today, not one officer involved in the 7/10 failure has been fired.

The following words should be clear to everyone and should not be a subject of controversy. General Herzi Halevi and his staff are some of the people directly responsible for the October 7th massacre. Given that he has admitted his failure and responsibility, this shouldn’t be a question. Not only did they get Hamas wrong over the last few years, they failed to do anything when war was staring them in the face. Anyone who has seen the reports about what happened on the evening of October 6th knows that Halevi and his staff failed to do even the minimum of the minimum when they received clear proof that war was about to break out.

The committee investigating the Meron disaster found Kobi Shabtai, the Chief of Police, to be one of the people directly responsible for the disaster and that he needs to go. As a result of that report, Gali Beharev Miara, Israel’s attorney general, ruled that Shabtai cannot appoint officers. Because of the war, Shabtai is being allowed to finish his term, but he can’t appoint senior officers. This isn’t a person to be trusted with the police force’s future.

Do we really need to wait for an investigating committee to tell us that General Halevi failed utterly and completely to understand that he shouldn’t be involved in deciding the IDF’s future?

What I wrote above is the essence of what Treasury Minister Bezalel Smotrich said yesterday when he raised the demand that Halevi refrain from appointments. BTW, just to illustrate how insane these appointments are, another officer who was actively involved in defending the idea that Hamas wasn’t interested in armed conflict is up for promotion.

Yet we have politicians screaming about what Smotrich said because they are all determined to place all of the blame on PM Netanyahu. Yes, Netanyahu has to go. Yes, Netanyahu failed (for years). Yes, Mr. Security was shown to be anything but Mr. Security. Yes, the right wing (like Smotrich) is partner to this failure. Yes, it goes without saying that I support Israel’s war against Hamas. None of that changes that the IDF chiefs failed to do their job and they should not be making appointments.

It is clear that the politicians defending Halevi are doing so because they want the focus of attention to remain on Netanyahu. Again, Netanyahu has to go, but that doesn’t mean for one second that the army is blameless. To claim that the army’s popularity is the deciding factor (as MK Hilli Tropper did) is to completely distort the moral issues involved. Halevy and his crew failed. Do we let these people decide how the IDF will look over the next 10 years?

Full disclosure: I did not vote for Smotrich’s party in the last election.

About the Author
Ben Waxman was born in the US and served as a Peace Corps volunteer. He lived in the Jerusalem area for decades and now resides in the Shomron.