Is Benjamin Netanyahu's Coalition Itching for Fight With Palestinians?

Military Brass at Odds WIth Government Over Security

Misguided: Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline policies have military brass worried. They fear Israel is only boosting hardliners among the Palestinians and undercutting their best possible partners for peace.
getty images
Misguided: Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline policies have military brass worried. They fear Israel is only boosting hardliners among the Palestinians and undercutting their best possible partners for peace.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published April 28, 2013, issue of May 03, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

With Israel’s new government barely a month old, tentative signs are emerging of renewed tension between the country’s political leadership and its military establishment.

Several news reports, based on apparently targeted leaks from the military’s intelligence and strategic planning branches — and perhaps the Shin Bet security service — suggest that the army’s senior command is alarmed at hard-line policies the new government is adopting toward the Palestinians. The army fears the government’s policies will strengthen hard-liners on the Palestinian side and could lead to increased violence, both in Gaza and the West Bank.

The first indication of tension came in an April 5 news analysis by veteran military correspondent Alex Fishman in the respected Friday Supplement of Yediot Aharonot. Titled “On a Low Flame,” the article reported that rookie Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon was instituting a zero-tolerance policy toward rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Two earlier rocket attacks, coming before his watch and punctuating a long cease-fire, had received only mild diplomatic and economic responses. Yaalon’s new policy began with a bombing raid April 2 in retaliation for mortar fire earlier that day. Since then at least six more rocket attacks have been launched.

Israel and Hamas signed an Egyptian-mediated cease-fire last November, ending the eight-day conflict code-named Operation Pillar of Defense. The Shin Bet, Fishman wrote, had expected that the fighting, and the assassination of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari that ignited it, would seriously weaken Hamas. But the organization quickly recovered, and showed its muscle by enforcing the cease-fire. Israel, chastened, allowed two rocket attacks, on February 26 and March 21, to pass without retaliation, allowing Hamas to impose order. On April 3, Shin Bet director Yoram Cohen and IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot reported confidently to the security cabinet that they foresaw a quiet year ahead. But that was before Yaalon took command.

Fishman wrote that Hamas has been “working frantically” since Pillar of Defense to prevent rocket fire in order to bolster its tense relations with the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel. The Brotherhood abhors Hamas’s flirtation with Shi’ite Iran. Within Hamas, therefore, the November cease-fire strengthened the hand of secretary-general Khaled Meshal, who favors a long-term truce with Israel to stabilize Hamas rule and improve its international image. All but one of the Gaza rocket attacks have been carried out by radical jihadist groups that oppose Hamas and reject any talk of truce.

Yaalon, however, doesn’t trust Hamas. He doesn’t believe rocket fire “is accidental or represents any ‘loss of control’ by Hamas,” Fishman wrote. “From his point of view Hamas — and the IDF and Israel as a whole — need to realize that a new broom has arrived” to sweep things clean.

Yaalon’s zero-tolerance policy, Fishman wrote, is a “gamble.” A bombing raid can be a deterrent, but it also “gives Hamas and the broader Arab world an excuse to pressure Egypt to ease its border controls and allow more weapons smuggling into Gaza.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.