What Daniel Drezner says about former Israeli military and security bureaucrats influencing the political debate in Israel.
As someone who thought the Iran rhetoric coming from Jerusalem was decidedly overheated, I nevertheless have more mixed feelings about these developments than, say, Peter Beinart. What’s disturbing is that even though Israel’s actual opposition party is evincing many of the same sentiments as the former military officers quoted above, they are not the ones moving the policy debate — it’s the ex-military/intel guys.
That’s a problem. As much as candidates for higher office like to talk about “consulting the commanders on the ground” and the like, big decisions about national security policy should be the province of elected leaders. Civilians need to be in control of these decisions — the moment that elected leaders give up this control, then the voters have forfeited the most vital decisions of a republic. This is why, in the United States, one of the rare sources of continuing bipartisan agreement is that when military commanders voice their policy opinions to the press in a way that contradicts the President, they need to be canned.
Now, recently retired military and intelligence officials are in a slightly different category, but there’s still a danger here. I respect that these ;people should have a voice, particularly if they feel their country is on the precipice of a policy disaster — but should their voice be louder than that of the main opposition party? I don’t think so, and it’s a sign that there’s a problem with Israeli democracy if that’s the case. I don’t think this is entirely the fault of ex-IDF and Shin Bet leaders, mind you — Netanyahu and Barak are part of the problem as well. Still, at least the latter people won elections and must go back to the voters again.