Benjamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz (Photo: Getty Images Europe)
Mofaz is a military man; he was the Israeli military’s Chief of Staff during the Second Intifada. And as part of the conditions for Kadima entering Netanyahu’s coalition, Mofaz gets inside Netanayhu’s cabinet and will be appointed deputy prime minister.
The speculation is that Mofaz will now play a role in formulating the Netanyahu government’s policy towards the Palestinians. JJ Goldberg of the Forward describes the new government as the “smartest move by any Israeli peace advocate in a long time.” Goldberg points to Mofaz’s “peace place,” which “calls for immediate recognition of a Palestinian state with provisional borders, controlling 60% of the West Bank for now, followed promptly by state-to-state negotiations toward a final-status agreement.”
But if you look at the fine print of the Mofaz plan, it’s nothing special. Mofaz calls for keeping the major settlement blocs, including Ariel, making any talk of a Palestinian state moot. Jerusalem would remain under Israeli control. There would be no settlement freeze. You call that a peace plan?
And then there’s Mofaz’s record in the Israeli military. Here’s Haaretz’s Gideon Levy on Mofaz:
Mofaz was also one of our crueler defense ministers - no less than 1,705 Palestinians were killed on his watch, including 372 children and teens and 191 targeted killings: that is no great honor, either. True, those were the days of the second intifada, but Mofaz was also one of the fathers of the doctrine of targeted killings, which has been completely forgotten. He was also the one heard whispering into a microphone that Yasser Arafat should be expelled from Ramallah, another genius idea at the time.
"I thought we should strike very hard," he told the Winograd Commission investigating the Second Lebanon War, and in so doing said everything there was to say about his doctrine of warfare and his military-political creed. Perhaps he has changed his mind since then, but it is up to him to prove it, and he has not yet done so.
In September 2005, the Independent’s Donald Macintyre reported on Breaking the Silence, the courageous Israeli organization of ex-soldiers who speak out about the violent abuse heaped on Palestinians living under occupation. Macintyre mentions a book authored by Israeli journalists to back up Breaking the Silence’s claim that Israeli army officials order soldiers to violate international law:
Breaking the Silence contends that the inspiration for many orders, which it says directly violate the international legal obligations of an occupying power, came from the highest ranks. Certainly, Booomerang, a new book by two prominent Israeli journalists, Ofer Shelah and Raviv Druker, reports that at a conference of officers as early as May 2001, Shaul Mofaz, now the Defence Minister but then Chief of Staff, asked for the tape to be switched off before telling them that he wanted a "price" exacted from the Palestinians of 10 killed a day on each of the Army's seven fronts.
And after six Israeli soldiers were killed in Ein Arik in February 2002, the book says, Mr Mofaz personally ordered a revenge operation in which for the first time Palestinian police officers would be shot, whether they posed a threat or not. One soldier who took part in a raid which killed four or five Palestinian policemen at a checkpoint 24 hours after Ein Arik told the IoS: "It felt bad even at that time. They said Palestinian police are connected to terror and that the [killers] passed through the checkpoint. Maybe the police are connected to terror but for sure they didn't pass through all the checkpoints [attacked that day]."
Now of course, whether Mofaz in the government or not will make very little difference for Palestinians looking for an end to Israel’s occupation. The occupation and settlement project is much larger than one man or coalition government. But, you can forget about Mofaz saving peace negotiations. Perhaps even more importantly, Mofaz’s record is no comfort to those worried about the next Israeli escalation in the Gaza Strip.