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May 26, 2016 / 18 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Israel Defense Forces’

Netanyahu Confronts Ya’alon Over Call to IDF Officers to ‘Speak their Minds’

Monday, May 16th, 2016

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Sunday night got on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wrong side when he urged IDF leaders to speak their mind in public and not fear reprisal. At this point it appears that some reprisal may be coming Ya’alon’s way from the Prime Minister, who summoned him to what the Israeli media described as a “rebuke meeting” Monday morning. Neither side in the meeting has issued a statement yet, which suggests that the meeting may not have ended in a compromise.

Ya’alon spoke at an event in Tel Aviv Sunday night and referred to the public storm around the speech by Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Yair Golan, which in turn had alluded to the episode of the IDF soldier who shot a neutralized terrorist on the ground in Hebron last Purim day. Golan, speaking at a Holocaust Remembrance Day event, compared episodes such as the Hebron shooting to the events in 1930s Germany which later resulted in the European Holocaust. At the time, Netanyahu was critical of Golan, and demanded that he apologize, since it sounded as if he was saying the IDF was a proto-Nazi army. Golan came close to saying just that, as many on the right suggested, while the IDF denied any such allegation.

An examination of the speech text reveals that the overall subject of Golan’s message was the concept of “purity of the weapon,” meaning that he was indeed criticizing phenomena inside the IDF when he made the Nazi Germany comparison.

Instead of an apology, the IDF Spokesperson’s office issued a denial, which Netanyahu probably did not love, but decided to let it go. With the narrowest possible majority in the Knesset, a puny 61 MKs, at least three of whom can be classified as Netanyahu’s enemies inside his own Likud party, the PM did not need another internal battle, certainly not with a national figure such as Ya’alon. But then, instead of the industrial peace Netanyahu needed so badly, on Sunday night his defense minister upped the ante with a new challenge to the boss, under the guise of protecting the freedom of expression of IDF officers.

“Tonight, too, I again demand of you and of your subordinates: continue to say what’s in your hearts. Do it even if your ideas are not part of the mainstream, and even if they challenge the ideas and positions adopted by the high command or the political echelon.”

Was the defense minister calling on his officer to rebel against the political class? Probably not, although he sounded dangerously close to saying just that. In his own mind, Ya’alon was probably hailing the old IDF tradition of encouraging questions from soldiers and officers, which may make the army a little harder to organize, but also encourages it to keep thinking outside the box, at least in some of its units. It should be noted that this tradition of rejecting iron clad “conceptions” dates back to the early, abysmal failure of the political and military leadership in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The accepted dogma was that the Egyptian and Syrian armies were too fearful of Israel after 1967 and the string of local victories by the IDF that followed, to dare launch another all out war against the Jewish State. A subsequent investigating committee discovered that the intelligence pointing to an imminent attack was all there — it was just discarded by the decision makers.

But, in the end, Ya’alon on Sunday night was not engaged in an educational effort to breed more independently thinking soldiers and officers. He was, in fact, declaring a culture war against rightwing Israel. He described the issue at hand as a struggle “against an extremist minority which is active on the ground and in social media. Some of it has infiltrated the social mainstream, too. Under cover and concealment it is trying to influence the character and values of the IDF. This is a hugely significant fight, perhaps the most vital and important in many years. Not only over the image of the IDF, but the image of Israeli society as well.”

Since the appointment of the new Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, the IDF has been engaged in a persistent effort to “de-Jewify” itself. Jewish education was removed from the military chief rabbinate and handed to HR, which in turn made it the purview of the Education corp, guaranteeing that it take on a secular bend. And there were several minor assaults on the traditional Jewish elements in the army, such as when soldiers were ordered to shave their beards. So that when Ya’alon reviles extremism he is not concerned with leftwing NGOs who turn in to the PA for imprisonment and a possible execution Arab land brokers. He is after the Jews.

 

YA’ALON AND THE WINTER AFFAIR

At this point we must pause to relate the story of Givati Brigade Commander Colonel Ofer Winter, who, on July 9, 2014, during the Gaza War, issued a daily “commander’s note” to his soldiers, in which he stated: “History has chosen us to serve at the forefront of the fighting against the terrorist enemy in Gaza, which is taunting, cursing and blaspheming against the God of the Armies of Israel. … I raise my eyes up to the heavens and say along with you, ‘Shema Israel, God is our Lord, God Is one.’ The God of Israel, please make successful the path we take as we prepare to fight for your nation Israel and against an enemy which blaspheme Your Name.”

Needless to say, the text, which refrenced Psalms 44 and Samuel I 17, as well as the She’ma Israel, was not received well by the Israeli largely secular media. It should be noted that Reform rabbi Uri Regev was among the first in Israel to attack the Colonel for mixing his private religious sentiments and the military. Many others continued to target Winter for the six months that followed.

It should be noted that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon led the attacks on his subordinate. “I didn’t love it,” he told a forum of the heads of pre-military preparatory institutions. He said the Brigade Commander should have stuck with language that is common to all his recruits, presumably not language that cites from Jewish sources. He also questioned how a Druz soldier might have responded to the Jewish text, as if non-Jews should be naturally offended by the concept of a Jewish State and a Jewish army.

 

NETANYAHU VS. HIS GENERALS

Netanyahu has had a rough relationship with the military leadership for most of his terms as prime minister. It began in his first term in the late 1990s, with overt confrontations with then Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Amnon Lipkin-Shahak and head of Shabak Ami Ayalon, as well as Netanyahu’s defense minister at the time, Yitzhak Mordechai. Netanyahu dismissed Mordechai before he had a chance to resign, in 1999, and Mordechai left Likud along with several other members to establish a new Center party, which failed miserably and ended up joining Ehud Barak’s new Labor-led government.

If their meeting on Monday did not reach a working compromise, both leaders must be thinking back to the Yitzhak Mordechai episode and wondering how soon before Ya’alon would jump ship to Labor.

Ya’alon’s colleagues in the Likud went after him with a vengeance Monday morning. Culture Minister Miri Regev, who served as the IDF Spokesperson at one time, told Channel 2 News that “It is inconceivable that a serving officer would grab the reigns from the political echelon and conduct himself as if this is an army that also has a state.” She continued: “The defense minister is confused. Military officers should speak what’s in their hearts in the appropriate forum and regarding the issues under their care.”

Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz told Army Radio, “I do not understand what’s driving the defense minister in these statements. His job is to instill discipline in the IDF. There must be a red line between army and state and between army and politics. I think his words were a miserable mistake. Ben Gurion would never have allowed for such a thing to happen.”

And Likud MK Oren Hazan, who often opposes Netanyahu, stood squarely behind the PM in a tweet that went: “Someone should remind Bogy (Ya’alon’s nickname) that we are a democracy and not under martial law. The IDF is not a junta, his job is to carry out the decisions of the political echelon and not oppose it and set a different policy.”

JNi.Media

Special Needs Student Joins the IDF

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Like many other young Israeli boys, 20 year-old Yinon Refaeli has dreamt of serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) since he was a child. The challenge for Rafaeli is that he suffers from cerebral palsy (CP) and cannot speak.

This never stopped Rafaeli from seeking out ways to show his dedication to his dream. “Every Purim he dressed up as a police officer or soldier,” said Yinon’s mother, Batya Rafaeli. “He would always approach soldiers on the street to talk to them and find out more about the military.”

Today marks one year that Rafaeli’s dream has come true. “Yinon’s school has a program so that anyone can have the opportunity to join the army,” Batya Rafali said. He has been reporting for duty as an IDF soldier every Wednesday at an army office.

After his weekly army service, Rafaeli attends a program at the Shalva center in Jerusalem. “They love him at Shalva,” Batya Rafaeli said. “They were very excited when they saw him in his IDF uniform.”

Shalva programs provide care to mentally and physically challenged children in Israel. Rafaeli has been attending Shalva programs since he was 6 years-old. “There is nothing like Shalva,” said Roni Rafaeli, Yinon’s father. “They helped him with everything. He can walk, he can talk with a computer when he is at Shalva and he can eat alone.”

Rafaeli is proud to wear the IDF uniform and contribute to the State of Israel – in his own way.

Jewish Press Staff Reporter

Fallen ‘Lone Soldiers’ Leave a Family and Country in Mourning

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

By Joshua B. Dermer/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – Ten years after the death of her son Michael, an American-born IDF soldier who fell in battle, Harriet Levin is still learning to cope.

“Every day is different,” Levin said in an interview with Tazpit Press Service (TPS) on the eve of Israel’s Memorial Day, which begins Tuesday night. “I’ve learned to deal, but then there are really bad days – I call them my ‘Michael days.’”

First Sgt. Michael Levin died during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Serving in Battalion 890 of the Paratroopers unit, Michael was killed by anti-tank fire while clearing a building in Aita Al Shaab, a city in southern Lebanon. He was 21 years old.

Levin represents a group of soldiers known as “lone soldiers” – citizens of other countries who leave behind their families and friends and come to serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

Thousands of lone soldiers serve in the IDF. During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, three lone soldiers, two Americans and one French, were killed in action in the Gaza Strip.

Since 2009, four lone soldier centers across Israel have been established in Michael Levin’s memory.

“Mostly I just try to focus on the good that we’re doing in his memory and that really keeps me going,” Harriet Levin said. The centers are “run by lone soldiers so they really understand their needs,” she added. “We just keep growing and getting better and better.”

Joshua Flaster, director of the Lone Soldier Center and a former lone soldier serving in an infantry unit, helped establish the center along with his comrades after completing his service.

“I came to Israel 11 years ago on my own, as a lone soldier, and sadly have lost good friends in the army,” Flaster told TPS. “Since my release from active-duty service I’ve had to say goodbye far too early to lone soldiers I’d helped advise and integrate into Israel.”

Memorial Day, known in Hebrew as Yom Hazikaron, carries special weight for soldiers, lone or otherwise.

“Yom Hazikaron is a day of sad reflection and, of course, a little scary for any soldier,” Flaster said. “Soldiers are sent to stand by the graves of members of their unit who fell before them. A country comes to a stand-still and as a nation we take on the pain, loss, and price paid to be a free people in our own land.”

Harriet attended the Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin ceremony at Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill on Tuesday, which featured the untold stories of fallen lone soldiers.

“It’s not only the loss of my son but the loss of all of Israel’s children, both in wars and terrorism, who have given their lives so we have a homeland,” Levin said. “He’s not the only one. He came here from the States and he really didn’t have to, but that’s what really makes Israel so fabulous.”

The differences between Memorial Day in the U.S. and Israel are “like night and day,” Levin said.

“The United States just doesn’t get what a Memorial Day is,” she said. “In the States it’s about barbecues and sales and opening your shorehouse and it has nothing to do with people who have given their lives for their country – here that’s all it’s about.”

Michael is remembered for his smile, courage, and unhalting Zionism.

“His smile would melt you and his eyes would twinkle,” Levin told TPS. “But his seriousness came through when it came to Israel. He had a passion for Israel and a love for this country. He was doing exactly what he wanted to do with his life.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

President Rivlin at Western Wall Memorial Day Ceremony: ‘We Must have Faith in the IDF’

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

The Memorial Day for the Fallen in Israel’s Wars began Tuesday afternoon with a ceremony at the Yad LaBanim Memorial in Jerusalem, in honor of the 23,447 who have died in Israel’s wars since 1860. 2,576 Israeli civilians have perished in hostilities since 1948. Prime Minister Netanyahu opened the day saying, “The national reconciliation is born by our shared destiny, and there is no deeper and nobler expression of this shared destiny than this day.”

Hundreds, including Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, participated on Tuesday night in the ceremony in honor of Memorial Day and the lighting of the memorial candle at the Western Wall plaza. The ceremony commenced following a country-wide siren marking a minute of silence at 8 PM.

President Rivlin told the assembled at the Western Wall that “over the past year we didn’t get to be together much. We dug in, each in the righteousness of our path — we’ve had disagreements. Naturally they are hard and piercing and they have to do with the essence of our life here. But the IDF is not only everybody’s army, it is everybody. The cover of loss is over all of us with blood curdling accuracy — the same pain, the same longing, the same shared destiny. The red marks prick equally in Negba and in Tel Aviv, Kiryat Arba and Marar, Sderot, Jerusalem, Yeruham, and Shlomi. We have to remember: the IDF does not navigate the ship. The IDF is doing all it can, in the best and most professional possible way, to make sure the ship can navigate its own path safely and reach its destinations. Our faith in the IDF and its commanders is our faith in ourselves. It is our faith in our strength, in standing before our losses, your losses, in the righteousness of our way.”

Maj. Gen. Eizenkot said at the ceremony that the unity of the nation “is the foundation of the Israel Defense Forces, and it shapes it as the nation’s army, as a state army.” He added that the IDF commanders and soldiers must be certain “without the shadow of a doubt, that the entire nation supports them and stands behind them, even when there are disagreements. Unity does not necessarily mean agreement, but we mustn’t allow these gaps to damage the unity of our goal. The faith of the people in the IDF is crucial to the accomplishment of our task: protecting the state, securing its existence, and if needed — victory in war.”

At 9:15 PM, the Knesset held the event “Singing in their memory,” in the presence of the President, the Prime Minister, the Knesset Speaker, Minister of Defense, the Deputy Chief of Staff, and the chief of police.

On Wednesday morning a second, 2-minute siren will be sounded, at 11 AM, followed by the State Memorial Ceremony for Israel’s Fallen Soldiers at Mount Herzl, with the president, the prime minister and the chief of staff. At the same time many local ceremonies will be conducted in cemeteries throughout Israel, including the military cemetery in Kiryat Shaul, Tel Aviv, where Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon will speak. On Wednesday evening there will be a ceremony of lighting torches on Mt. Herzl, which will mark the end of Memorial Day and the start of the 68th Independence Day festivities.

David Israel

Analysis: Deputy Chief of Staff Compares IDF to Nazis, Then Says He Didn’t

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, speaking at a commemoration of the Holocaust, said he sees in today’s Israel evidence of events that took place in Europe before the Holocaust. The ceremony, at the Massuah Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak, included dignitaries like Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi), who were visibly unhappy with what the man who could some day lead the Jewish Army thought about his subordinates.

Maj. Gen. Golan, who is the child of a Holocaust survivor whose entire family was murdered by the Nazis, said that what truly frightens him in recalling the Holocaust is to identify the same blood curdling processes that took place in Germany and in the rest of Europe “70, 80, and 90 years ago, and discovering evidence of their taking place here, among us, in 2016.”

Golan summed up the characteristics he found in both pre-Holocaust Europe and in 2016 Israel as follows: hatred of foreigners, fear mongering, brutalization, rhinocerization and self-righteousness. The one before last term refers to the 1959 play Rhinocéros by Eugène Ionesco, a Romanian exile in Paris, who explains Nazism and Fascism in a satirical tale of a small, provincial French town whose people turn into rhinoceroses.

The Golan statement goes to show that being the child of a Holocaust survivor does not automatically qualify one to be able to make convincing analogies between the state-organized, industrialized slaughter of six million Jews and what amounts to 150 years of a difficult relationship between neighbors in Israel. The comparison, inaugurated by the late professor of chemistry and ingenious commentator on Jewish law and Jewish history, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who coined the term Judonazis, has been rejected with contempt by many Israelis, most notably the late Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin:

In 1993, Prof. Leibowitz was selected for the highest national award, the Israel Prize. Before the award ceremony, Leibowitz was invited to speak to the Israel Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, where his controversial remarks calling upon Israeli soldiers to refuse orders triggered outrage, and PM Yitzhak Rabin threatened to boycott the Israel Prize ceremony. The IP jury convened to withdraw the award from the provocative and intentionally nasty professor, but Leibowitz quickly announced that he would refuse to accept the prize, taking charge of his own public execution.

Maj. Gen. Golan on Wednesday night may have walked into his own public execution, which explains why he and the IDF spokesperson’s office and Army Radio have been swimming the backstroke all of Thursday trying to persuade a livid nation that the deputy chief did not mean the IDF was starting to look like the Wehrmacht.

So, here is what the man next in line to lead the IDF said about the IDF (translated from the full text of his speech, courtesy of Ha’aretz):

Saying that Holocaust Memorial Day must also be a day of national reckoning, Golan suggested such reckoning must include “unsettling phenomena.” Referring to the public debate over the purity of the weapon (a uniquely Israeli term, dating back to the pre-state years, meaning when Jews use their weapons they must do so ethically), he said he wished to comment on the matter.

The most notable “unsettling phenomenon” Golan was citing had taken place on Purim day, when two Arab terrorists stabbed an IDF soldier in the neck at a check post outside Hebron in Judea. The force at the site shot down both terrorists, killing one and neutralizing the other. About ten minutes after the incident, a 19-year-old medic who served with the same unit showed up to help treat the stabbed soldier, and was documented by a B’Tselem video as he shot dead the terrorist who was still living, who was lying on the ground. The IDF and the Defense Ministry reacted at lightening-speed to the video, turning what would have probably resulted in a disciplinary action, if at all, into a murder investigation. The sheer audacity of the military prosecution in attempting to pin a murder charge (which has now been reduced to manslaughter) on a combat soldier aroused a groundswell of popular protest, the likes of which Israel’s security apparatus brass had rarely faced before; and the protest also served to enhance the demarcation between left and right, Zionist and anti-Zionist, ruling elites and everyone else in Israel. When you read Maj. Gen. Golan’s notes below, keep all of that in mind as the subtext.

“Irregular use of weapons, and damage to the purity of the weapon have taken place in the IDF since its founding,” Golan conceded, adding, “The pride of the IDF has always been in our ability to investigate difficult incidents, without bias, to bravely investigate problematic behavior, and to accept full responsibility for the good but also for the bad and the unlawful. We didn’t justify, we didn’t hide, we didn’t paint over, we didn’t wink, we didn’t roll up our eyes to the heavens, we also didn’t make excuses. Our path has been and will continue to be the path of truth and accepting responsibility, even when the truth is hard to take and the responsibility heavy. We believe in the righteousness of our path — but not everything we do is righteous. We trust the morality of the IDF as an institution, but we do not overlook the exceptions. We demand of our soldiers precisely what we demand of ourselves, and we insist that being a personal example be second nature to every commander.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett issued a tweet saying, “One minute before the Holocaust deniers turn these erroneous words into a flag, one minute before our soldiers are compared to Nazis, God forbid, with approval from the brass, [we say] the deputy chief of staff made a mistake and he must correct it at once.”

The IDF released a statement saying, “The Deputy Chief Of Staff wishes to clarify that he had no intention of comparing the IDF and the State of Israel with events that took place in Germany 70 years ago. The comparison is absurd and utterly groundless, and there was no intent to create such a comparison, nor to criticize the political echelon. The IDF is a moral army which observes the purity of the weapon and the dignity of man.”

But, of course, he did just that, he compared the IDF and the State of Israel with events that took place in Germany 70 years ago — in fact, that very reference is a quote from his speech, spoken with a self-righteous tone reserved to the members of the ruling elite when they describe the plebeian masses who foolishly fail to adhere to the wisdom and moral uprightness garnered by decades of being in charge.

Come to think of it, the Golan speech was the perfect analogy for the decadence, hatred of foreigners, fear mongering, brutalization, rhinocerization and self-righteousness — of Israel’s Jewish left, and Holocaust Memorial Day was the perfect time for such an analogy.

The fact that a man who compares his subordinates to Nazis may be considered to replace the current chief of staff, who, for his part, has told the nation that the rabbinic principle of “He who rises to kill you, kill him first” is merely a metaphor and not a moral principle; and that both men are commanded by a Defense Minister who keeps Jews in prison for many months without charges, and uses brute force to evict Jewish dwellers from their homes — while permitting widespread illegal Arab dwellings — those are crucial lessons Jews must learn and absorb, lest we are tempted to believe that what followed the Nazi Holocaust was a full Jewish liberation.

There’s still a whole lot more liberation left to be done.

JNi.Media

Gunfire From Gaza Hits IDF Vehicle After Netanyahu’s Visit to Border

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

By Joshua B. Dermer/TPS

Nahal Oz (TPS) – An Israeli army vehicle was hit by gunfire from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited troops stationed on Gaza border and inspected a recently uncovered Hamas “terror tunnel” reaching into Israeli territory.

A military vehicle was struck near Nahal Oz, an Israeli community just beyond the security fence bordering the northern Gaza Strip, the IDF announced. The vehicle suffered damage but no one was injured in the incident.

Earlier in the day, Netanyahu toured the southern area of the Gazan border accompanied by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Col. Gadi Eizenkot and inspected the Hamas tunnel uncovered by IDF forces several weeks ago. Netanyahu and Ya’alon were briefed by Gen. Eyal Zamir, Director of the Southern Command, on the most up-to-date Gaza survey findings.

“Tomorrow is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Seventy years ago we were like a leaf in the wind, with no defense force and helpless. We were slaughtered,” Netanyahu told soldiers of the 51st battalion stationed at the border. “Today we have a country and we have an army. We have the ability to defend ourselves on all fronts, both near and remote. What drives me is to secure the future of Israel and its people.”

“We are in the eye of the storm,” Netanyahu continued. “You see what’s happening. Millions are fleeing for their lives to Europe, and we have ISIS in the Golan on the other side [of the border], and ISIS here on the other side,” he said, referring to extremist forces in the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Desert.

“We are basically in the eye of the storm, and relative to the area we are the most stable, tranquil, and safest country.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

IDF Promises Yad L’Achim, ‘Soldiers Won’t Be Taken to Missionary Events’

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

A special letter from the Israel Defense Forces arrived in the headquarters of the Yad L’Achim anti-missionary organization this week in response to a complaint filed by the group.

The letter was sent two years ago after it was learned that 300 officers and soldiers from the army’s most elite units had been bused to an event that included a missionary pitch by an American preacher.

Yad L’Achim appealed to the defense minister and IDF chief of staff, calling for an investigation into the event, demanding to know who authorized taking the uniformed soldiers from their base to a missionary event. More important, who would assure that it didn’t happen again?

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot sent a letter upon assuming his post last year assuring Yad L’Achim “that the incident is being investigated by commanders in order to prevent a recurrence.”

Yad L’Achim followed up and learned that the missionaries were planning to hold another event for soldiers this past Sukkot.

Rabbi Chanoch Gechtman, who has been coordinating Yad L’Achim’s campaign to protect soldiers from missionaries, immediately turned to the IDF upper echelons with the information. The rabbi attached to his letter a copy of Eisenkot’s commitment and sought urgent clarification.

A few days before the event was scheduled to take place, Rabbi Gechtman received a call from the army assuring him that no soldiers would participate.

Last week, the IDF Manpower Agency finally made it official in a letter, clarifying that the orders had been forwarded to all IDF units: Accepting invitations for soldiers to participate in missionary events is absolutely forbidden.

IDF letter to Yad L'Achim clarifying that no soldiers will be taken to missionary events.

IDF letter to Yad L’Achim clarifying that no soldiers will be taken to missionary events.

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/idf-promises-yad-lachim-soldiers-wont-be-taken-to-missionary-events/2015/10/22/

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