President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday warned Israeli leaders against falling into a pattern of group-think, saying a failure to challenge dominant strains of thought could have catastrophic consequences, in comments seemingly aimed at the current government.
Rivlin was speaking at a ceremony to mark the 1973 Yom Kippur War, whose high death toll is often blamed on warnings missed by Israeli political and security leaders and a strict adherence to flawed understandings of the military intentions of Israel’s enemies.
“We must not forget the lesson [and] must also cast doubt. To maintain the freedom of inquiry and criticism. To protect freedom of thought,” he said at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem.
“No to conceptions. No to leadership that comes from a single source, speaks in one voice and rejects dissent because as we have learned, the price is very, very high,” Rivlin added.
Rivlin’s comments Thursday appeared to be aimed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom critics have accused of promoting loyalists to key positions.
Since becoming president in 2015, Rivlin has parted ways with Netanyahu on a number of hot-topic issues, though he has refrained from directly attacking the prime minister.
The president has also been outspoken in his defense of institutions such as the press and police amid attacks by Netanyahu and his allies as the prime minister faces a number of corruption investigations in which he has denied wrongdoing.
The Yom Kippur War and the intelligence failures that prevented the military from seeing what was obvious in retrospect remain sore subjects in Israeli public discourse.
Though the Israel Defense Forces was able to repel the invading Egyptian and Syrian armies, the war prompted Israelis to lose trust in the army and the government, and forced the IDF to undergo dramatic changes in its structure and protocols to prevent it from being caught unawares again.