In a stark demonstration of how cultural differences play out differently in Israel and America, Haaretz offers commentary from some senior IDF brass, including General Avi Mizrachi, commander of all IDF forces on the West Bank, that contradicts the thesis of a speech by the prime minister last week. Netanyahu said that letting too many convicted murderers free onto the West Bank in order to have Gilad Shalit freed, would endanger Israelis. Mizrachi says his troops can handle the danger.
This isn't a general badmouthing elected leaders; it's officers and a general contradicting the prime minister on a matter of substance: far worse, you might think. Yet no-one in Israel will ever call for the firing of General Mizrachi, not because Israeli democracy is weak, but because it works differently. Soldiers, from privates to generals, are expected to say their mind; since it's a small place and everyone knows everyone, their mind cannot be expected to remain a secret.
My son the soldier is home this morning, and he adds a different perspective to the story: Yes, he says, of course the IDF will be able to deal with hundreds of additional terrorists roaming freely on the West Bank. Should they ever return to terrorism (as some of them inevitably will, if past experience is any indicator), the IDF will have to have more roadblocks, more midnight raids of Palestinian homes, more violent arrests of terrorists who will fight rather than be captured, more articles in Haaretz about how cruel the Israeli occupation is... Setting terrorists free won't mean the destruction of the State of Israel, but it could well mean more war, and more opprobrium for Israel.
In another example of a cultural difference between the civil discourse of American (and European) democracy, versus the raucous type in Israel, cabinet minister Fuad Ben-Eliezer earlier today lashed out at the head of his party, Ehud Barak, with an outburst about how "I'm Iraqi, I'll screw you, you don't know who you're dealing with".
Barak and Fuad have been friends for about 50 years, not that you'd guess from the outburst.