"We can’t accept the existence of two armies,” said outgoing Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi in an interview prior to his retirement. This criticism – anemic, almost implied, too late to be of benefit – earned him, as expected, attacks from the right and embraces from the left. As though Kochavi was just born, without a history, without a professional past, only a handful of interviews.

You’re either with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or against him, and that’s the only thing that’s important. But Kochavi has completed his tenure, and his words in the retirement interviews can be examined in light of his policy. This reveals far more than a cautious and calculated page of messages from someone who is already examining the fast track for exchanging his uniform for a suit.

Confidence in the army, said Kochavi, “stems from the fact that you make decisions in a professional and practical manner only. Without any extraneous considerations, certainly no political considerations.” Only practical considerations were behind the decision to secure the march of settlers to Homesh, against the law and at a time of tension in the region.

No extraneous considerations were involved in the decision to impose a prolonged closure on Nablus, after hilltop settlers decided to close the city on their own, or in the decision to hold a ceremony at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron for the changing of battalion commanders.

Also practical was the decision to risk the lives of soldiers and Palestinians with another entry into Joseph’s Tomb, in order to enable such apolitical personages as Boaz Bismuth, Idit Silman, Amichai Chikli and Almog Cohen to hold an apolitical event with the head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan.

The Civil Administration has no need of Bezalel Smotrich in order to be mired in politics. Dozens of soldiers who served in the unit told us how the settlers’ leadership dictates targets to the staff of the Civil Administration during weekly meetings, about the development of the right-wing campaign “The Battle over Area C” into official military policy, about the discrimination in granting building permits to the Palestinians and about turning a blind eye to the theft of land by settlers. It’s so practical that it leaves one breathless.

Two records were broken during Kochavi’s term. One was the number of attacks by settlers – in 2022 they became almost a daily occurrence, in broad daylight, often secured by soldiers. Kochavi chose to look the other way. The military advocate general even had to correct him and to explain that the soldiers really are allowed to arrest violent settlers. The second record was “lethality.” The year 2022 was the deadliest year since the second intifada.

On Kochavi’s last night as chief of staff Omer Hamour, 14, was shot to death in the Daheisha refugee camp – the 14th Palestinian killed in the 16 days since the start of the year. Almost one victim a day. We won’t know yet whether the right-wing campaign is related to stricter open-fire directives, one reason being that the army during Kochavi’s tenure the army preferred to clarify regulations rather than to really investigate itself. Over 140 dead, including 34 minors and one 78-year-old.

Kochavi is not the first whose tenure was characterized by an intermingling of political considerations and professional security considerations, but it is hard to recall another chief of staff during whose term this tendency was implemented so blatantly and publicly – and who afterwards still dared to warn against it. Transferring control of the Civil Administration and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories to "Smotrich really will give the racist unrestrained power to intensify the annexation of the territories to Israel, but that doesn’t render Kochavi’s lethal policy acceptable.

We can assume that Kochavi will run for the Knesset and request the public’s trust based on his activity as chief of staff. That’s a sufficient reason to examine his candidacy with open eyes, and not allow him to benefit from the anesthetizing words “professional considerations.”

The writer is the co-executive director of Breaking the Silence.

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Kochavi’s Belated, Anemic Criticism Means Nothing

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25.01.2023

"We can’t accept the existence of two armies,” said outgoing Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi in an interview prior to his retirement. This criticism – anemic, almost implied, too late to be of benefit – earned him, as expected, attacks from the right and embraces from the left. As though Kochavi was just born, without a history, without a professional past, only a handful of interviews.

You’re either with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or against him, and that’s the only thing that’s important. But Kochavi has completed his tenure, and his words in the retirement interviews can be examined in light of his policy. This reveals far more than a cautious and calculated page of messages from someone who is already examining the fast track for exchanging his uniform for a suit.

Confidence in the army, said Kochavi, “stems from the fact that you make decisions in a professional and practical manner only. Without any extraneous considerations, certainly no political considerations.” Only practical considerations were behind the decision to secure the........

© Haaretz


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