Retired Israeli general suggests Syria attack timed for election effect

As elections approach, Israeli politicians are misleading the public about war crimes probes, and according to one general-turned-politician, about war itself.

(This analysis originally contained a previous section called, ‘Is the ICC running against Netanyahu in Israeli elections?’ It has been published as a separate article here.)

OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant in 2010. Galant recently announced that he is running for Knesset in the ‘Kulanu’ party. (Photo by IDF Spokesperson)
OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant in 2010. Galant recently announced that he is running for Knesset in the ‘Kulanu’ party. (Photo by IDF Spokesperson)

“War is merely the continuation of politics by other means.” — Carl von Clausewitz

Retired Israeli army general Yoav Galant suggested that Israel’s assassination of a senior Hezbollah commander and an Iranian general in Syria on Sunday might have been timed with electoral politics in mind.

Appearing as a guest commentator on Israel’s Channel 2 News, responding to the air strike in Syria earlier in the day, Galant told a story from his time heading the IDF’s Gaza command.

“If you look at the previous elections, [the timing of the assassination of Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari] wasn’t something that was possible only on that date.”

The Jabari assassination was the opening shot in 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza, which left over 150 Palestinians and six Israelis dead. It took place two months before Israel’s most recent elections.

“I was the commander of the [Southern Command] for five years before that and there were many, many opportunities in which it would have been possible to do it and I recommended as much, and for some reason it didn’t happen on those dates,” Galant continued.

Speaking about the assassinations in Syria on Sunday, Galant, who recently announced his own candidacy, suggested that election politics may be playing a role in the political-military decision-making behind the latest Israeli attack.

There are security needs and it should be assumed that those in charge are acting responsibly and seriously, he said. “However, you can learn from past events that sometimes the timing isn’t entirely unrelated to elections.”

Operation Cast Lead, which took place in Gaza between December 2008 and January 2009, also immediately preceded Israeli elections.

A full cast of former military officials and politicians came out to reject Galant’s commentary. His accusations should, of course, be taken with a grain of salt. Galant, too, is in the middle of an election season.

Following the backlash, Galant went on Army Radio Monday morning and said he was just floating a scenario that “some people” might believe. “I don’t believe that there’s a connection between the two things,” he told Army Radio.

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