Israel's generals run for Knesset election

Israel's generals run for Knesset election
Analysis: Joining Israeli political parties in March's race are a list of some of the country's most well known military figures, famed for assassination squads and mysterious intelligence agencies.
3 min read
26 January, 2015
Dichter will likely run on a Likud ticket for the Knesset elections in March [Getty]

Israeli generals and intelligence chiefs are reportedly being recruited by political parties for the upcoming Knesset elections slated for 17 March.

General Elazar Stern (retired) looks set to run for the Israeli parliament with Yesh Atid, the liberal party established by former TV news anchor Yair Lapid.

Military MP

Avi Dichter, the former director of Israel's internal intelligence agency, Shin Bet, is also returning to politics to represent Likud - though he faces a tough election battle, currently fighting a court battle for the 20th spot on the party's electoral list.

The Likud list has been at the centre of controversy, with several recounts of the party's primary poll. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is reportedly pleased with the result, which has placed several of his favoured candidates high up - though the list is short on women, Orthodox figures and personalities favoured by the settlement movement.

Dichter is currently placed 26th, after "irregularities" were discovered in the primary poll voting. But Netanyahu has the facility to appoint two names of his own choosing to the list, for the 11th and 23rd slots.

Dichter is considered a big prize for Netanyahu, who is trying to secure his own position with a big win for the party.

The former Shin Bet head was famed for "engineering" the assassinations of Palestinian political leaders during the Second Intifada, although more than half of the casualties in the rais were civilians.

"I am the first in assassinations," has been one of Dichter's political slogans.

Political machinery

Yitzhag Herzog, leader of the Labor Party, was said to be "overjoyed" when Amos Yadlin, head of the Military Intelligence Directorate accepted an invitation to join the party.

     Herzog is said to have promised to appoint Yadlin minister of defence.

Yadlin spent most of his military service in the air force, and was one of 16 pilots who took part in the infamous operation to bomb the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.

The former pilot also took part in numerous sorties during the 1982 war in Lebanon, and commanded the bombing of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) headquarters Tunisia.

Herzog is said to have promised to appoint Yadlin minister of defence if Labor forms a parliament.

Despite running for the self-styled "socialist" party, Yadlin was part of the right-wing Institute for National Security Studies.

Elite commanders 

Omer Bar-Lev, a former colonel, is also representing the party. He commanded the Sayeret Matkal special forces team, widely seen as one of Israel's most elite army units, which was responsible for carrying out the assassinations of a number of Arabs and Palestinians, including those accused of involvement in the 1972 Munich massacre.

Several prominent members of the Sayeret Matkal unit have gone on to become heavyweight political figures, including former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, Naftali Bennett and Prime Minister Netanyahu himself.

The Haredi religious party, Yashad, formed by the minister of internal affairs, Eli Yishai, also has Omri Fox, a former infantry colonel, on its electoral list.

The transformation of military officers to political leaders demonstrates the centrality of the military to Israeli public life and illustrates the history of Israel's military-political nexus.

Aside from Netanyahu's army service, Israel's list of former prime ministers is filled with military veterans. Ehud Olmert served in the infamous Golani brigade. Ariel Sharon was a career soldier - first as a paratrooper then a major-general leading the charge into the Sinai during the 1973 war.

Ehud Barak was the most decorated soldier in Israel's history. Even Yitzhak Rabin, famed as a "peacemaker", was a lieutenant-general. Yitzhak Shamir, Israel's prime minister between 1986 and 1992, led the pre-state Lehi paramilitary group and later served in the Mossad. Shimon Peres was the director of Israel's ministry of defence by the age of 29.

Golda Meir, who led Israel between 1969 and 1974, is the country's only prime minister not to have served in the Israeli military.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.