What is to be done with Mofaz now? As an elected MK on Kadima’s list, his place is in the Knesset. The mark of shame on his brow will only become evident to Israeli society in another generation.
Ehud Olmert must act quickly: He has to find an appropriate job for the outgoing defense minister. Otherwise, Shaul Mofaz is liable to cancel the Israel Prize ceremony on Independence Day, as he canceled his ministry’s traditional reception – all in consultation with his advisors, of course. But if Olmert gathers a bit more courage, he will realize he has no reason at all to give Mofaz any position, and that Mofaz should go home. Mofaz should now look after his own home, after doing quite enough to our homes and the homes of our neighbors.
It is hard to understand where Mofaz gets the nerve to demand for himself "suitable compensation" for the defense portfolio that was rightfully taken from him. It is true that in our political culture a senior government portfolio becomes a long-term possession and almost none of our ministers pay a personal price for failures. Still, Mofaz’s place is on the backbenches of his new faction. Like new MKs Ze’ev Elkin from Kadima or Itshac Galantee from the Pensioners, he should learn about parliamentary work before asking for another job; unlike these two anonymous MKs, Mofaz has already caused great damage to Israel.
There are countries in the world where a person like Mofaz would be sent home as an outcast – if he managed to avoid standing trial (in his country or at the International Court in The Hague) for suspected war crimes. Here in Israel, this is an exaggerated expectation, but Olmert – who seeks change – should at least be asked to keep Mofaz out of his government, to relieve himself of a moral burden.
This task is easier than Olmert might think: Mofaz is someone without strong political backing. He is a former army chief of staff who arranged a political position for himself before he was properly discharged from the IDF and was only elected to the 11th slot on the Likud list in the previous Knesset elections. He was then ordered by the Supreme Court to resign from the Knesset after trying to "improve" his discharge date. Mofaz tried to compete for the position of Likud chairman prior to the latest elections and, only after realizing he had no chance, he took the cynical step of quitting the Likud and joining Kadima. This is not a fearsome political figure.
From a practical political perspective, Mofaz’s views – though he never fought for them and always adapted himself to the demands of his superiors – do not enable him to be a faithful partner for Olmert’s convergence plan. As defense minister, he opposed the disengagement and only at the last minute lined up with the prime minister, while raising the befuddling idea of leaving the IDF in Gaza post-disengagement in order to maintain a "bargaining chip." As chief of staff, he regarded the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon as a disaster.
But Mofaz’s opportunism, which even exceeds the norm in Israeli politics, is not the primary reason that Olmert should keep him out of his government. The rotten fruits of his security policies are the reasons he should remain outside. The bloodshed – of Israelis and Palestinians – for which Mofaz is responsible, is the real measure of his achievements as defense minister, and for this he cannot be forgiven. Many are guilty of the occupation’s brutality, but Mofaz is especially to blame.
During the eight years in which Mofaz headed the defense establishment – four years as chief of staff and four as defense minister – he did everything he could to derail any chance of an accord with the Palestinians. We are not only talking about his inhumane policy toward the entire Palestinian people, but also his systematic effort to destroy the Palestinian Authority and not leave a trace of it, lest Israel have a partner for peace. Mofaz is not only responsible for countless unnecessary victims, but also for the destruction of the infrastructure of moderate Palestinian leadership. From this perspective, the Hamas government and the impasse we now face are the direct result of his policy. The person who called for liquidating Yasser Arafat and ordered the bombing of the PA’s installations bears heavy responsibility for the rise of the Hamas alternative. If only for this failure, Mofaz should have paid the price with his cabinet seat long ago.
But there is also something else, which we do not discuss often: It is called morality. Is it too much to expect from the new and relatively young prime minister to restore this forgotten term to the lexicon? The heritage Mofaz left for the IDF, and via the IDF to society as a whole, is wholly based on the exercise of force and violence. During Mofaz’s days, force had no limitations. The IDF opened fire, bombed, liquidated and destroyed on an alarming and unprecedented scale. The moral image of Israel was completely distorted, and an entire generation grew up with an uninhibited chief of staff and defense minister. The purity of arms became an annoying and archaic concept, the IDF almost completely stopped investigating incidents involving killing, and the finger on the trigger became frightfully light. Mofaz’s spirit of command prevailed over everything.
What is to be done with Mofaz now? As an elected MK on Kadima’s list, his place is in the Knesset. The mark of shame on his brow will only become evident to Israeli society in another generation. In the meantime, he should not be a minister. Here is a challenge for the interim prime minister: Leave Mofaz out and even explain why. Tell citizens that there is no place in your government for someone suspected of being responsible for war crimes. History will remember you for this with great appreciation.