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An Israeli general and an American audience

By Gary Rotto

Gary Rotto

Gary Rotto

SAN DIEGO — Benny Gantz is an Israeli general.  When you look at him and you listen to him you have the same reaction.  There’s a certain confidence, a polite swagger as he establishes himself behind the podium as the keynote speaker at the Federation Men’s event.  There’s that baritone voice with enough of an Israeli accent for authenticity but clear enough for even those with hearing impediments to understand.  There is also the command in his voice to cause you to listen intently.  From Moshe Dayan to Yitzchak Rabin, American Jews have loved their Israeli generals, even more that Israelis like their generals.

There’s a visceral response that we have when seeing them and listening to them.  We have pride for the leadership they represent.  We revel in their intelligent discussions.  We have respect because of what they and the IDF does that we do not:  put our lives on the line for the Jewish people.

When General Gantz talks about the Iranian nuclear deal and says, “It’s a done deal” and that we need to move on to make sure that the Iranians follow through on their agreement, we nod our head and let any animosity to the agreement melt away.  We refocus because the general has helped us to do so.  When says, “I know firsthand how strong Israel is operationally” and “I doubt that Iranian (nuclear) development will occur,” we are reassured.  When he says that we need to “reach out to the Iranian people themselves, not the regime but the people because they are more westernized than we think they are,” we pause to take in this fact and imagine the strategy that might be employed.

When Benny Gantz states that ISIS is the greatest threat to the region, we nod in agreement.  When he lays out three goals “To fence it, to fight it, to shape it” we think hard about what that would look like.  When he states that “a massive ground force attack” is necessary against ISIS “as we cannot accept its existence as an organization” we also absorb in his addendum that this will not happen until the region is ready for this and that the region must provide the troops, not the US (and not Israel).    When he states, “we must fight terrorist as terrorists and not as Islam,” we are reminded that certain presidential candidates do not have a clue as to how to utilize either our military or the Department of State in this fight.  “You can win an idea only if you have an alternative positive idea and can promote positive alternative ideas,” becomes more than an accepted fact as delivered by the General but one that educates us on diplomacy, nation building and the proper use of force.

We wonder for a moment what is the future for this general?  And then, as the moderator states that the general will take questions “except for questions about his political future,” we have a partial answer.  We contemplate the future leadership of Israel and know that Israel will benefit from another wise, experienced, retired Israeli general, one that can command and inform an audience of American Jewish men with his presence and can certainly contribute as a civilian political leader.

Rotto is a freelance writer based in San Diego.  He may be contacted via [email protected]  Comments below must be accompanied by the letter writer’s first and last name, and by his or her city and state of residence. (Writers outside the U.S. may provide city and country.)

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Copyright 2015 San Diego Jewish World

One Response to “An Israeli general and an American audience”

  1. J.J. Surbeck says:

    Good article and good description of the key elements of the speaker’s speech (I wasn’t there, so I’m taking it at face value). One quibble though: when the author says “we are reminded that certain presidential candidates do not have a clue as to how to utilize either our military or the Department of State in this fight.”, surely he meant “we are reminded that a certain (sitting) president” has no clue, etc… Any of the presidential candidates would do better.

    J.J. Surbeck, San Diego


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