OPINIONS

Tue 25 Jun 2024 9:43 am - Jerusalem Time

The Israeli army and government: the struggle of strategy and status

A dispute emerged between the military establishment and the Israeli government over the future of the war on the Gaza Strip. The army believes that military operations have exhausted their purposes, and that it cannot achieve more than it has achieved, and any continuation of operations will not bring new results but will increase losses to no avail. This perception is not accepted by the government, and no one in it even wants to think about it, especially with an extreme right-wing government, “malana,” as it is called in Israel.

In light of the government's intransigence, the army has tried during the last two weeks to recruit Israeli public opinion directly and indirectly to put pressure on the government, and a set of steps can be monitored that it has taken to gradually convey its perception of society.

For example, the army stated that Israeli detainees cannot be released through military operations, despite the success of some operations here and there, especially after Netanyahu used the Nuseirat operation for political purposes to increase his popularity and disrupt the exchange agreement. The army also attempted to implement a tactical truce in Rafah during Eid al-Adha, but the government strongly opposed it; With the aim of conveying a message that continuing military operations is not necessary, and that a temporary halt is possible.

The army also stated that it could not open a comprehensive confrontation with Hezbollah without ending operations in Rafah and the Gaza Strip in general, and challenged the government by declaring that eliminating the Hamas movement is not possible, and that it is part of the Palestinian people, which sparked its anger towards it in an unprecedented manner, because From opposition to its trends, the war will continue until the Hamas movement is eliminated.

The army's escalation in its challenge to the government came in several political contexts, namely:

First, Netanyahu’s success in marginalizing the issue of reaching an agreement to stop the war and exchange prisoners, supported by an American position that accused Hamas of thwarting the American proposal, which Netanyahu exploited well.

Secondly, the “State Camp” party headed by Benny Gantz left the government, which weakened the pro-military voice in the War Council, so the army remained alone except for the support of Defense Minister Yoav Galant.

Third, dismantling the war council and replacing it with an advisory council that carries Netanyahu’s views, and Ben Gvir, who is also hostile to the army, may join it.

Fourth, the government is adopting two draft laws that contradict the army’s position and proposals, namely the Reserve Law and the Ultra-Orthodox Recruitment Law.

Regarding this last point, the Ministry of Defense (in coordination with the army) is authorized to submit draft laws that relate to the military institution. The Ministry of Defense had already submitted a reserve law proposal in February; With the aim of improving the reserve system in the army, but the army was demanding the expansion of “Haredi” recruitment. To create a balance between the reserve law and the Haredi recruitment law. But the government ignored this demand, and tried to achieve a different kind of balance by reducing the age of exemption from reserve service to 41 years, and adopting a previous law that did not contribute to expanding Haredi recruitment.

The main source of disagreement remains the army’s position, which desires to end military operations after they have exhausted their objectives. The army believes that the government must put forward a political vision that complements the military path towards achieving the war’s goals, while the government believes that the continuation of military operations is the goal in itself.

The army has begun to realize that the only political vision the government has is to keep it in the Gaza Strip. To pave the way for Israeli military rule that may facilitate the return of the settlement project in the Gaza Strip. Thus, the goals of the war from the army’s point of view have shifted from achieving Israeli national security interests to achieving the ideological goals of the right.

If international pressure, mass protests, and the pressure of the Northern Front were unable to dissuade the government from its course, the army saw that it had only one option left, which was to go to public opinion to broadcast its convictions directly and indirectly, especially since polls reveal that it had regained confidence. The public, after its failure on October 7, came in first place in the 2024 Democracy Barometer poll published by the Israel Democracy Institute, achieving the confidence of 85% of the public, while the Prime Minister came in second place with a large margin of 52%.

There is a point that cannot be overlooked when analyzing the relationship between the military institution and the current government, and it relates to transforming the army into a “contractor” to implement government policies. The dilemma is that the Basic Law of the Army of 1976 defines its role in implementing government policies, and therefore the current government is not violating the law. But before that, the army was not just a contractor implementing orders according to what was specified by that law. Rather, it was a partner in determining the government’s policies in matters of war, and it influenced its decisions. He has lost this role under this government, and the erosion of his status has reached its peak.

The irony is that the army remained influential when Israeli governments were filled with former generals, while its status and influence are eroding under a government that has only one general, and whose influential members did not serve in the army: (Ben Gvir, Smotrich, and the leaders of the Haredi religious parties). This explains the anger of its leaders at the rejection of draft conscription laws, as those who do not perform military service because of their religious beliefs are responsible for making decisions regarding the army’s strength and human resources.

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The Israeli army and government: the struggle of strategy and status

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