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Flap over Military Parade

August 3, 1977
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A top Israeli military figure has sought to demolish, point-by-point, the arguments in favor of an Independence Day military parade which the Cabinet by a vote of 7-4 with two abstentions, approved Sunday with the ardent support of Premier Menachem Begin. Gen. (Res.) Rehavam Zeevi, former commander of the Central Command and a staunch “militarist” and “hawk,” added his voice to the growing anti-parade sentiment which has been expressed in the Knesset and by Jerusalem’s Mayor Teddy Kollek, since the Cabinet decision was announced.

Zeevi served as an intelligence and counter-terrorist advisor in the governments of former Premiers Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin and was in charge of Israel’s last Independence Day Parade in 1973. He said in an article published yesterday in Yediot Achronot, that he began to have doubts about the wisdom and necessity of such elaborate military displays even as he commanded the 25th anniversary parade here five years ago.

His arguments against a parade next year were based on both military and economic consideration and on the kind of image Israel should present to the world. Zeevi wrote: “A military parade in Jerusalem costs a great deal in terms of money. The preparations, the training, building and grandstands, readying the route, decorating it, etc.–all this costs a lot of money. Part of it is expressed in ‘open budgets’ but a lot more is concealed under other budgetary headings.”


He noted that “engine hours” of the tanks and “flying hours” of aircraft during the special training for a parade are a serious waste of resources from the standpoint of military training. “They require much money and a lot of spare parts which are paid for in dollars and which are sometimes hard to get. Participation by an army unit in the parade has a cost in terms of its training–that is in terms of its battle-preparedness. If reserve units are called up instead, this also has a price….”

Zeevi pointed out that all military headquarters are involved in a parade, from the area commander down to the command structures of the individual units. All are occupied for months in advance with preparations for the parade and therefore are not occupied with their primary military responsibilities.

“When I commanded the 25th anniversary parade (in 1973) a feeling crept into my heart then that the military parade itself actually has the effect of inducing soporific unprepared ness, diverts attention and concentration from the real tasks…creates a false and exaggerated sense of strength both in the army and in the nation at large,” Zeevi wrote.


He warned that the concentration in Jerusalem of a large amount of weaponry and of the nation’s leaders watching the parade could provide the enemy with a useful opportunity to attack Israel. “Why, furthermore, should a military parade be the central event of Independence Day?” Zeevi asked. “Granted, the army was one of the most glorious creations of the State, but it was created out of necessity, not out of ideal…Is this the image we want to portray abroad–of Sparta? Cannot we find other means of expressing our achievements of these past 30 years…?”

Zeevi rejected the argument that a massive parade would serve as a deterrent to Israel’s enemies. He recalled that Israel was attacked by Egypt and Syria only five months after the last military parade. “Arab generals do not need Israeli military parades to know–and be deterred by–what Israel has in its arsenals,” he wrote.


He also dismissed the contention that a parade would serve as a focal point of Independence Day activities. Zeevi said it would be a focal point only for Jerusalemites who have seen many national parades and gatherings and have become jaded and for the invited “big shots” from abroad who would attend.

As for a parade as a tourist attraction, Zeevi said it cost many dollars to erect special stands for tourists” which in past parades were mainly grabbed by locals” and that there was no proof that tourists spent large sums of money on parade day. Another argument by the pro-parade groups was that it would “bring the army closer to the nation and vice versa.” This, Zeevi wrote, “might be right, but it might be wrong. Certainly, thousands of Israelis called up as reservists to maintain public order and for other duties were not thankful for having their Independence Day ruined,” he said.

According to Zeevi, there is little enthusiasm within the army itself for the parade. It did not encourage esprit de corps or boost morale in a way comparable to the various “corps days” during which each section of the army displays its achievements, he said.

Finally, Zeevi did not believe the parade would do Israel any good with either its friends or foes. “The 1968 and perhaps the 1973 parades made a political point–about Israel’s resolve to keep Jerusalem assist united and eternal capital. But that point has been made and does not need re-making,” Zeevi said.

Five motions protesting the government’s parade plans were submitted to the Knesset yesterday. They were sponsored by Yossi Sarid of the Labor Party, Moshe Amar of Mapam, Meir Payil of the Sheli faction, Meir Wilner of the Rakah Communists and David Glass of the National Religious Party, a coalition partner.


Meanwhile, Begin has called on all parties to allow their Knesseters a free vote on the question of whether Israel should hold a military parade. Replying to motions for the agenda this afternoon, the Premier agreed that the issue be debated in the Knesset plenary and also agreed to abide by the majority vote of the Knesset.

Labor’s Knesset faction has already voted by majority to allow its members a free vote on the parade question. Party chairman Shimon Peres found himself among a small minority of members who spoke in favor of the parade.

Begin, defending his Cabinet’s decision to hold the parade, said today it was not intended as a “show of force” but rather as a focus of national rejoicing on Israel’s 30th anniversary. He said the parade he envisaged need not be entirely military but could include civilian displays too as well as units of the “Machal,” the overseas volunteers of the War of Independence.

At the Cabinet meeting Sunday, it has been reported, the parade opponents included Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon and Education Minister Zevulun Hammer. The two abstainers were Interior Minister Yosef Burg, whose police would have to protect the parade route and maintain order, and Finance Minister Simcha Ehrlich, who would have to find the funds to pay for it.

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