More on the Generals' Letter

translation: Israel News Today

Generals’ Letter

Yedioth Ahronoth (p. B14) by Nehama Duek -- [October 31] If one were to add up all their years of service in the army, the police and the Mossad, one would reach an unbelievable number of more than 3,500 years of service in the security of the State of Israel. A total of 105 IDF major generals and brigadier generals in reserves, retired Israel Police commanders and lieutenant commanders and former Mossad directors decided to emerge together from their private comfort zones and to sign a letter calling on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “not to join those who use threats as an excuse for inaction and to initiate a political process.”

   The signatories are neither professional petition-signers and their names are not the ones that one commonly finds penned to the bottom of petitions either in support of peace or the Greater Land of Israel. This time, the names are different. Some of them are generals who doffed their uniforms many years ago, such as the former Mossad director, Zvi Zamir, and Maj. Gen. (res.) Amiram Levine. There are other, such as generals Danny Bitton and Avi Mizrahi, who retired from the army just recently and were members of the IDF General Staff that oversaw Operation Cast Lead. They are more familiar with the situation on the ground than others. There are also three former police commissioners—Assaf Hefetz, Yaakov Turner and Herzl Shafir.

   “We, the undersigned, IDF commanders in reserves and retired police officers, who fought in Israel’s wars, are intimately familiar with the severe and painful price that war exacts,” reads the letter, which was initiated by Maj. Gen. (res.) Amnon Reshef, formerly a commander of the Armored Corps, who says he has grown fed up with the reality in which Israel has to engage in rounds of warfare every few years instead of a sincere effort being made to adopt the Saudi peace initiative. “We fought valiantly on behalf of the state in hope that our children would live here in peace,” reads the letter. “Except reality has proved us wrong, and we are once again sending our children to the battlegrounds, watching them putting on their uniforms and battle vests, and going out to fight in Operation Protective Edge… there is no question here of left and right. There is one idea here for resolving the conflict, which is not based only on bilateral negotiations with the Palestinians, which has failed time and time again… we expect of you a courageous initiative, leadership. You lead—and we will stand behind you.”

   […] Q: Ever few months a petition gets published by either the left or the right. What is different about the current one?

   Reshef: “The difference is in the message, and mainly in the quantity of signatures at the end of the letter that was addressed to the prime minister, but via him to the entire public. Read the names of the signatories. They’re all combat soldiers, major generals and brigadier generals, and my fellow combatants of the other ranks will forgive me for not having managed to get to them. I felt it was urgent. I saw how Sisi called on Israel to hold negotiations, and no one in Israel picked up the gauntlet. I saw [Israel] head into Operation Protective Edge and the sense that we’ve grown accustomed to the fact that every three years there’s another round of warfare. I felt it was urgent. I wrote the petition and I thought that I’d get 40 or 50 high-ranking officers to sign it. I was glad when one friend brought another, and hardly anyone refused. The strength that exists in those names is unique and singular.”

   Reshef: “In the letter we argue that the Yom Kippur War stemmed from political blindness. I also say that if Operation Protective Edge doesn’t have political follow-through, its casualties will have been in vain. And if so, what did the residents of the Gaza periphery suffer for and why did the entire population need to be traumatized, if we’re already talking about a second a third round. God, after all, there’s a solution that can prevent the next rounds. We have to reach an arrangement with the moderate Arab states, which have more leverage and influence over the Palestinians than we do.”

Q: Do you really believe that a comprehensive peace agreement can be reached?

   “Absolutely. To establish a Palestinian state and to reach a comprehensive agreement with the tens of Arab countries that are in the region.”

   […] Maj. Gen. (res.) Avi Mizrahi: “That’s a tricky question because everyone has their own definition of ‘comprehensive regional peace.’ Up until now, incidentally, we’ve failed when we’ve tried to talk only with the Palestinians, so maybe a comprehensive initiative will be more successful. But if you’ll permit me to take the bird’s eye view, there is a [joint] Egyptian and Israeli interest in resolving this problem. For example, Sinai is a large swathe of land that overwhelmingly is neither developed nor populated. If the Egyptians donate a few tens of square kilometers to the [Gaza] Strip, that could help the joint development of the area and produce a situation in which it isn’t just us and them in the game.”

[…] Q: Is Netanyahu made of the right stuff? Is he capable of reaching an agreement?

   Reshef: “Theoretically? He’s capable. Does he want to? I don’t have an answer to that.”

   Mizrahi: “Of course Bibi is capable. Will he listen to our letter? That’s a different question altogether.”

   Reshef: “We’re addressing him in hope that he will realize that he has an opportunity here for us to help him. If it doesn’t work, my next objective is to build an orderly system [i.e. a well-oiled machine] so that by springtime we can organize a demonstration of 200,000-300,000 people with the message [in support] of a regional arrangement that will lead to security-economic-social flourishing.”


Hundreds Join Generals’ Initiative

Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 24) by Nehama Duek -- In the aftermath of the report in Yedioth Ahronoth on Friday, hundreds of officers in reserves have joined the group of 105 generals who called on the prime minister to immediately adopt a political initiative [to resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict].

   Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Friday that 105 major generals and brigadier generals in reserves, as well as former Mossad directors and police commissioners, demanded that Netanyahu adopt the Saudi peace initiative as a way out of the political deadlock with the Palestinians, a deadlock that they believe is liable to produce another round of violence.

   The sponsor of the initiative, Maj. Gen. (res.) Amnon Reshef, has received hundreds of phone calls, emails and text messages in the wake of the report in Yedioth Ahronoth from veterans who have asked to join the initiative. Reshef said that a symposium on the issue would be held in the near future.