Israeli prime ministers typically come from the military establishment. That helps a lot during military crises, but it distorts Israeli politics. The mindsets of army commanders and politicians are drastically different. Military men prefer short, daring actions while politicians are given to prolonged, patient, indecisive intriguing. Rabin, Barak, and Sharon tried to achieve peace in one step. Yitzhak Shamir, used to patient guerrilla war rather than large-scale military operations, acted patiently in politics. Netanyahu, a business consultant, tried to rule the country according to university textbooks: liberalizing the economy, not renouncing the Oslo accords. Olmert, with a lawyer’s background, enjoys maneuvering rather than forcing through a solution. He will not push for the evacuation of the settlements or press the Israeli public to abandon the Golan Heights. Olmert is the safest prime minister for Israel now.

The age of generals-cum-prime ministers is drawing to the end. Israel’s leftist policies have devastated the army. Breaking the legs of Palestinian children during the Intifada, evicting crying Jews from Gush Katif, and bombing Lebanese villages cannot leave military morale intact. Scores of career officers want to demobilize. The army perceives that civilians are disgusted by it. While that’s generally not the case, the signs are there: the children of politicians and the “elite” generally shrink from combat duty and often avoid conscription altogether. Leftist media consistently depict IDF soldiers as murderers of Palestinians and as the guards of murderous Jewish settlers. IDF takes lands, but the government gives them back to our enemies. Israel sends her army to purposeless, half-hearted wars. The Israeli government risks Jewish soldiers in urban combat to look good to human rights groups. The Israeli army conducts essentially police operations in the West Bank and Gaza. Soldiers stand idly while Syria builds up its forces, Iran enriches uranium, Hezbollah stocks its bunkers, and the Palestinians shell Sderot. The government forgets that soldiers want to kill, preferably in clear-cut situations. Burdening them with political and human-rights constraints, using them for incursions rather than wars, demanding arrests rather than killing, demoralizes the army. The IDF cannot pay competitive salaries to technological personnel, and loses professionals to corporate market. Instead of loudly decrying the problem, the IDF’s human resources department staffs the army with less competent personnel.

The embattled Jewish state has entered the era of professional politicians. When lawyers control the army, our victories are no longer assured.