By virtue of their status, the statements such people make represent the worldview of the government to which they are a partner. By virtue of their prestige as former chiefs of staff, they also influence public opinion, and to a large extent determine the prevalent worldview in broad sectors of the population.
For example, Moshe Dayan is remembered for saying: "Better Sharm el-Sheikh without peace than peace without Sharm el-Sheikh." Today there is no need to reiterate the extent to which this statement has been disastrous for the State of Israel. It embodies two fatal mistakes - in terms of values and in practical terms. History proves that both parts of this statement were indeed wrong.
The mistake with respect to values concerns the identification of what is good: It is doubtful whether there is even one sane citizen today who thinks the situation of the State of Israel would better if the IDF or a Jewish settlement were now in Sharm el-Sheikh, embroiled in a perpetual battle with Egypt, even on a "low flame."
Dayan's second mistake was the assumption that Israel was capable, militarily, politically, socially and economically of holding on to Sharm el-Sheikh forever. History showed the magnitude of that mistake within just six years.
The country is now in the horns of a dilemma that is equally or possibly even more fateful for the state than Dayan's. The dilemma now facing Moshe Ya'alon, the government and all the citizens of Israel is nearly identical to Dayan's. One must only replace Sharm el-Sheikh with Ariel, and ask: Is Ariel without peace preferable to peace without Ariel?
Ever since the city in the West Bank was founded, all the governments of Israel and, in fact, everyone coming out with a publicly expressed opinion on the subject has come down on the same side as Dayan: Better Ariel without peace. Moshe III expressed this very well, when according to a report on January 24, 2011, he said: "They [the Palestinians] are trying to push us into an agreement that is not peace and is not the end of the conflict, but we must not budge from a single millimeter of territory."
In this statement Moshe III made the same two fatal mistakes as Moshe I: He too assumes that it is within Israel's power not to budge from a single millimeter of the territory for all eternity. Although this assumption has not been refuted as quickly as Moshe Dayan's declaration, many Israelis have already been its victims - never mind the vast amount of money invested in realizing it over the course of the past 30 years, which is all destined to go down the drain. Ya'alon's second mistake is identical to Dayan's mistaken assessment in identifying what is good, and is evident particularly in what he did not say.
Judging by the aggregate of actions, statements, economic steps, military deployments and diplomatic moves Israel has made, there is no doubt that the government, in which Moshe III is a vice prime minister, has declared in principle that Ariel without peace is better than peace without Ariel. And this is despite the attempt that has been made, for example, by Ya'alon, to blame the decision of the government on the other side of the conflict.
The price the State of Israel paid, and especially the personal price paid by many thousands of its citizens, for Dayan's strategic error was too heavy to bear. But that price will be dwarfed by the full price the country and its citizens will pay for Ya'alon's mistake. Of Moshe I it can at least be said that he presented the alternatives with understanding and his decision was made with honesty.