WaPo takes aim at the IDF and misses

The front-page headline in the Sunday Nov. 7 edition of the Washington Post paints a grim picture of the IDF -- "Israel's military faces loss in recruits, status -- Growing number of exempt citizens, recent scandals are among the reasons cited."  The lengthy article, by Jerusalem correspondent Janine Zacharia, jumps to an inside page with an equally gloomy headline -- "Israeli military grapples with decline in recruits, loss of status."

Zacharia's first half dozen paragraphs on the front page are in sync with the headline's negative assessments of the IDF -- Growing numbers of young Israelis are avoiding conscription, military planners worry that the IDF won't meet its recruitment needs, the IDF is manned by greater numbers of officers ideologically opposed to evacuating settlers from the West Bank.

There is some truth in these observations, but Zacharia goes overboard in her doomsday depiction of the IDF to the point that she ends up contradicting or partially retracting some of her initial sky-is-falling generalizations.

Also, her evidence for some of the alleged chinks in the IDF's armor border on the ludicrous, such as accounting for declining numbers of youths reporting for a stint in the military by citing "Leonardo DiCaprio's girlfriend, model Bar Refaeli, (who) gives legitimacy to evading service."

As for the fears of military planners that they won't meet recruitment goals -- ballyhooed on the front page at the start of Zacharia's article -- there's a reassessment on the jump page in the 13th paragraph.  Belatedly, it turns out that "the military still fills its combat-unit quotas."  Shortages, Zacharia concedes, are confined to support units and administrative positions.  Not quite the sweeping front-page assertion of worries by IDF planners that they won't have all the troops they need.  The IDF still has ample recruits for the most important slots in any army -- combat units.

An even greater departure from the ultra-dark picture conveyed by the headlines and the front-page portion of Zacharia's article can be found on the jump page -- way down in her 23rd paragraph, where she waxes downright lyrical about the IDF's position in Israeli society -- "The IDF remains by far the most trusted public institution in Israel.  And the draft is still a core rite of passage in mainstream Israeli society, with acceptance into an elite unit generating the kind of pride an American family feels when a child gets into Harvard."

If that's so, how do Washington Post editors justify running a headline, supported by the front-page portion of Zacvharia's article, that conveys the opposite of her belated ode to the IDF in the 23rd paragraph?

Whatever the purpose of that solitary paragraph, it's promptly erased by the last two paragraphs of Zacharia's article, which are meant to convey her own jaundiced view of Israel and the IDF.

"In a recent opinion piece in Haaretz," she writes, "Dan Sagir, an avowed leftist whose son will soon be drafted, worried that the Israeli government's failure to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians would further erode public enthusiasm for military service.

"Israeli society is at a cross-roads with respect to conscription in the IDF,' Sagir wrote. "The issue is the erosion of the legitimacy of service in the IDF as the conflict drags on.'"

In other words, the real purport of Zacharia's front-page piece is to saddle Israel -- not the Palestinians -- with "failure" to reach a peace deal.  And, in turn, to blame this Israeli "failure"  for a supposed decline in the IDF's "legitimacy."   That, according to an "avowed leftist" writing in Haaretz, an ultra-left wing Israeli newspaper with an anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian agenda embraced by the Washington Post and its Jerusalem correspondent, Janine Zacharia.
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