Jerusalem Post Editor Steve Linde's "revelation," followed by his near instantaneous retraction that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told him "the two main enemies facing Israel are the New York Times and Israeli newspaper Haaretz," only add to the hypocrisy of the mini-saga surrounding our unsuccessful effort to publish a reasoned response to the slanderous attack Jerusalem Post commentator Carolyn Glick levied against the person and character of Major General Nitzan Alon in her editorial, "Our World: Netanyahu's misleading lessons in governance."
We first submitted this piece to the Jerusalem Post. Following an agreement that they would run our rebuttal, we were later informed that the Jerusalem Post Board had reversed the earlier decision and ordered our piece removed from the next day's galleys and that further, "under no circumstances, would they publish our counter to Miss Glick's commentary." In response to our question as to whether they contested the "facts" as we presented them, the answer was "no." In the reversal of its original decision to run our rebuttal to Miss Glick's smear of a respected senior IDF public servant, the Jerusalem Post appears to have chosen to replace past presentations of authentic, fair and balanced content with a bully pulpit for character assassination, one that allows no avenue for judicious response.
If ever there was thankless yet important job in Israel, it is the position of General Officer Command (GOC) of the IDF Central Command. MG Alon should be commended for accepting the appointment, especially in light of the harassment and attacks upon himself and his family and having witnessed the similar treatment meted out to his predecessors. Further, knowing that every aspect of his authority will be circumscribed not wholly by defense concerns but by political ones, and that every move he makes will be challenged and second guessed by Israelis, Palestinians and international diplomats and the NGO community, who would want this job? What kind of man would accept it? The answer is a man who, like his predecessors, chose long ago to dedicate himself to the defense of his nation, not to a community within that nation.
The IDF's basic mandate is to protect Israeli citizens wherever they may be. But so long as Israel remains the overarching authority in the West Bank the IDF also bears responsibility to protect Palestinians as well. It is not, however, the responsibility of the IDF to enforce Israeli law, nor to apprehend, try and or incarcerate those who choose to break the laws of the land. That responsibility lies firmly within the rubric of Israel's justice system, police and legal bureaucracies. Recent failures therein reached a state where Generals Alon and Mizrachi felt compelled to publicly make this point. They should be applauded, not derided for their courage to do so.
Glick's slanderous characterization of Alon as "the most radical politically insubordinate officer" borders on libel, and the examples she uses to illustrate her construct are patently false. First, Miss Glick fails to mention that in the NY Times article in question, correspondent Ethan Bronner characterized Alon's participation as "... a rare on-the-record interview, reflecting a consensus among Israeli defense officials...." The simple fact is that Alon spoke on-record with the full sanction of his superiors.
Second, Glick asserted that Alon "openly sought to undermine and discredit declared government policy...(by calling) for the US Congress to continue to fund the Palestinian Authority's security services despite the PA's decision to ditch the peace process." This is also untrue. Glick fails to understand or distinguish for her readership the difference between actual government policy and a public threat or statement levied by a government minister or member of Knesset.
She knows very well the Jerusalem Post reported this past November that Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, "informed the Obama administration (in September and October) that she no longer would block $50 million in economic support funds for the Palestinian Security Forces ... citing certification by President Barack Obama that the aid was in the national security interests of the United States, as well as word that the government of Israel did not object."
Glick's disingenuous analysis, coupled with her characterization of "price-tag" attacks as mere hooliganism and vandalism, betray a shameful ideologically driven attempt at obfuscation of the dilemma. These actions against both Palestinians and the IDF are not mere vandalism, but indeed constitute organized terror designed to cower the government of Israel and handicap the IDF into making decisions that may not be in the long-term interests of the state of Israel. To date, thankfully, the Palestinians have not played into a game of tit for tat response to provocative acts. Generals Mizrachi and Alon and the men and women they command deserve a large part of the credit for this fact, as do West Bank Palestinians.
"Price-tag" attacks further damage Israel's reputation as a "democratic state" by giving the perception, real or otherwise, that its institutions responsible for egalitarian justice are either incapable or unwilling to enforce the rule of law when those responsible are part of a radical but politically active subset of Israel's politic.
Israel's political leaders, not Generals Mizrachi and Alon, must grapple with this dilemma. But it is their command that must deal with the realities and results of their politician's actions. Alon and Mizrachi were 100% percent correct when they recently claimed: "We can't do our mission only with military tools... Diplomacy and economy are very relevant."
In the meantime, we know two things: first, as Senator Moynihan quipped, "People are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts." Miss Glick's employment of falsehoods to slander a good man was shameful enough, but the Jerusalem Post's decision to print an editorial that spits upon Israel's sons and daughters in uniform and then reverse its decision to provide others the opportunity to defend the very same is where the real shame lies. Second, as much as we deplore Miss Glick's stated views, we know beyond a doubt that Nitzan Alon would be the first to defend to her right to present them. In the meantime, he will continue to do his job to buy time for politicians; Israeli, Palestinian and American alike, to get down to the business of doing theirs.
Steven White is the former Senior Advisor to the United States Security Coordinator to Israel and the Palestinian Authority (USSC) LTG Keith W. Dayton (2005-2010.) P.J. Dermer is a retired U.S. Army Colonel and former Army Defense Attaché to Israel. Both are currently co-authoring the history of that mission.