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The passing of the founding generation has exposed Israel's leadership crisis

People gather to stage a demonstration in support of Palestinians on 15 May 2021 [Seyit Aydoğan/Anadolu Agency]
People gather to stage a demonstration in support of Palestinians on 15 May 2021 [Seyit Aydoğan/Anadolu Agency]

More than 73 years have passed since the "declaration of independence" by the occupation state of Israel. It has since claimed many great security and military achievements, but the state lacks leadership. There is no handbook for leaders. The severity of this crisis has been exposed by the passing of the entire "founding generation".

The leadership crisis goes beyond governance, decision-making, internal immunity and international immunity, because these are all linked to the leader's personality and charisma, which Israeli leaders lack more than ever. This is especially true for those with significant influence over Israeli public opinion.

Many Israelis understand the gravity of this issue, given the great political changes sweeping the region. A large-scale war has not been ruled out even in the absence of leaders with the experience and ability to make major decisions with neither hesitation nor recklessness.

Israeli leaders of recent years have been embroiled in corruption and bribery, even at the very top of the political tree. Military failures and political stagnation have afflicted successive governments.

Leadership has passed down to the second and third generation of Israelis, without them having to make much effort. One political hypothesis is that Israel lacks a leadership able to overcome strategic challenges, to the extent that some Israelis say — without exaggeration — that the country is facing an existential crisis.

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This leadership crisis is found in many areas of life in Israel, including politics, the military, security and the economy. It is actually remarkable that Israel's leaders in recent years have tried to emulate the policy of the "founding fathers" which was based on political manoeuvring, evasion and keeping lines of communication open with all parties to find solutions. However, the successor governments did not master this due to a lack of skill and knowledge among the politicians. It is, therefore, no surprise that the Israeli leadership today is unable to agree on peace with the Palestinians, or overcome the domestic issues they are faced with.

This could explain the gradual return to the rule of the generals, which may restore some confidence in the leadership, because they are accustomed to personalities with files full of "military achievements". Their presence at the top of the political pile may give Israelis some degree of comfort, confidence and sense of security, even if it is only psychological. This is despite the fact that in recent years many of these generals have failed miserably in their objectives, dragging their reputation into the mud.

One-dimensional planning in Israel's military offensives against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip has produced limited successes at excessive cost. We could call this "net loss" although these were the most planned of all Israel's wars.

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The responsibility for these failures does not lie only with the generals and other senior officers, but also with the "political thinkers". When the army was preoccupied with military planning, Israel's political leaders lacked the skills to control them, so they stalled.

Even though the military leadership seems at first glance to be free of corruption and bribery, these soldiers also experience crises from time to time. There have been a number of administrative errors and organisational lapses made by senior officials in the Ministry of Defence and the army, such as leaking documents from the desks of senior officers, disclosing secrets that endangered the lives of soldiers, and collusion between high calibre officers. Some generals have apparently even taken part of the budget allocated for secret military operations in Syria and Iraq and spent it on weekend vacations with their families.

Such allegations and rumours, whether true or not, have seriously damaged the reputation of the Israeli army and affected the public's confidence in it. There is now a kind of cheap competition amongst its senior commanders. This makes the political leadership crisis spread onto the military in what is an extremely militarised society. Israel is in dire need of real leaders in both fields.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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