Saturday October 25, 2014
Israel Hayom
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25.10.2014
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Dr. Aviad Hacohen

Armchair chiefs of staff

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz is under constant fire, and not from Hamas. Journalists, politicians, and academics are shooting metaphorical Qassams, Grad missiles, and drones at him in quick succession. Everyone is taking part in the mudslinging. Everyone, of course, knows better that he does what should be done. Occupy, demolish, kill, withdraw.

Paper, as we know, can take anything. Reality? Not at all. A wise man once said that in Israel there are 8 million citizens and 16 million prime ministers. Every Jew has two opinions at the very least. Every snot-nosed brat sees himself as an expert, a professor of strategy and tactics. Many of the ten-cent writers and advisers have never led a military battle in their lives. For some, the most they did to fulfill their duty was grasp a pen, and the only projectiles that went whistling past their ears were pingpong balls. But of course, they know better than everyone else. They're experts, aren't they?

Our sages praised "those who are insulted but do not insult, who hear themselves reviled without answering" (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 88b).

After three and a half years, we can say that these people include the current chief of staff. At least most of the time. Aside from a few unnecessary remarks, Gantz adheres to his quiet, certain path, more determined than ever to do his job faithfully and protect the security of the state and the safety of its residents according to his best professional judgment. Quietly, firmly, calmly, thoughtfully, without unnecessary bells and whistles, he -- working closely with the prime minister and defense minister -- is directing one of the most difficult, complicated battles Israel has ever faced.

Unlike wars of the past, this war is being fought not against a regular army but against terrorist organizations that have no limitations or inhibitions. In addition to missiles and rifles, the terrorists have heavy, unconventional weapons: women and children, hospitals and schools. And we haven't even discussed the simultaneous battles being waged in the media and in the arenas of diplomacy and international law.

From the hallways of the Knesset, air-conditioned university lecture rooms or journalists' homes, it's very easy to direct the war. One has only to recite a few choice words, hollow cliches, or string together some catchy populist slogans to make headlines and be awarded a citation of excellence and the title "war critic."

It is much harder to plan complicated moves that will strike at terrorist infrastructure while harming as few innocent people as possible and minimizing the number of casualties among our soldiers; provide solutions for the Gaza border area communities; and all the while keep an eye on what is happening in Syria and Iran.

There is no need to say that like anyone else, the chief of staff makes mistakes and is subject to criticism. A person who does nothing cannot err. Criticism can be constructive. It is vital, both in wartime and in peace.

So please, criticize. But do it fairly, without malice. Criticism should be honest and true, not motivated by foreign, political, or populist interests -- fair criticism based on hard facts that isn't baseless, empty, and fruitless. Constructive criticism that suggests solutions, not criticism for the sake of criticizing that offers no real alternative and leads to nothing.

In times like these, we should remember: "Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations" (Avot 4:1). One who overpowers his inclinations, not one who conquers and pummels Gaza, acting in haste and without thinking, without considering the price or the results the day after.

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