The adding of former IDF Chief of Staff Mofaz to the cabinet confirms another emergent Netanyahu pattern — namely, his preference for gathering around himself former military men whose undoubted professional skills are accompanied by a notable lack of political ones.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak is the senior representative of this type. Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon also exemplifies it. Mofaz is the third addition to the list.
Mofaz is famed in Israel for jumping from Likud to Kadima at the last possible moment when that party was established in 2005, having formerly made a ringing declaration that he was staying “home.” He now appears to have made a similar move in the reverse direction.
But though accurately seen in Israel as a mediocre politician, the Iranian-born Mofaz was a highly competent soldier and officer and a relatively successful IDF chief of staff.
The Winograd Committee’s report on the 2006 Lebanon War also revealed him to have been a consistently reasonable voice in Ehud Olmert’s chaotic wartime cabinet. Mofaz argued for an earlier use of ground troops in the war, but opposed the futile engagement of these forces in the dying days of the conflict. Both these decisions confirm him as a cool-headed, intelligent military thinker.
During his first prime ministership, Netanyahu’s admirers in the Likud used to refer to him as the “cosem” (magician). Since then, there have been failures and defeats and the magic sheen has long been tarnished. But the events of the last days prove that at least when it comes to mastery and management of the political process in Israel, the current prime minister is without peer. He is now the most experienced politician in the Israeli front rank, and it shows.
It would be premature, however, to predict subsequent far-reaching policy moves on any front. This Israeli prime minister is tactically bold, but strategically extremely cautious.