They Have to Go

Until the prime minister and defense minister leave their posts, it’s unlikely there will be a serious shake-up in the IDF.


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on November 7, 2006.)

The prime minister was right, for a change, when he said there was an urgent need to learn the lessons of the second Lebanon war. No time should be wasted in dealing with this task, he explained. It’s true that the war fiasco has done great damage to Israel’s deterrence image in the Middle East.

Hassan Nasrallah proclaims victory by his militia over the IDF, and the whole Arab world applauds. Hamas in Gaza is encouraged in the belief that massive rocket raids against Israeli towns and villages can bring Israel to its knees and is in the process of bringing these and other weapons into Gaza from Egypt. Syrian leader Bashar Assad is beginning to sound bellicose, and his statements may yet set into motion a move toward war against Israel, which may end up beyond his control. And the Iranian threat seems to be growing day by day.

For the first time in many years, Israelis have reason to be concerned about the defense of the State of Israel. This is no time for the IDF to be in disarray and for arguments between senior officers to be aired in the media. It has to be prepared for worst-case scenarios. Let’s restore order to the IDF, the sooner the better.

But the prime minister was wrong in concluding that a state judicial inquiry commission should not be set up because it would inordinately extend the process of learning the lessons of the Lebanon war, and preoccupy senior IDF officers, keeping them away from their primary duties. He doesn’t want to understand that the shake-up of our military establishment, obviously so urgently needed, must be carried out from the top down and not from the bottom up. A new structure should be built from the bottom up, but reforming an existing structure can be done only by proceeding from the top down. Only a state inquiry commission, starting from the top, which will examine the failings of the prime minister, defense minister, and ministerial committee for defense during the war can set into motion the necessary reforms in the IDF.

Clearly some senior IDF officers will have to be replaced, and a new chief of staff may have to be appointed. But considering the failings during the war of the present political leadership, the prime minister and defense minister do not have the moral authority to order these changes, and, in effect, do not order these changes. Their own feeling of inadequacy is clearly reflected by their complete immobility on the matter and the fact that not a single senior officer has been cashiered due to his failings during the war: not even those in the navy responsible for the criminal negligence that led to Hezbollah’s successful attack against the navy’s missile boat off the coast of Lebanon.

The prime minister and defense minister are keeping their hands off, obviously cognizant of their own responsibility for the fiasco of this war. Until the time they leave their posts, it’s unlikely that there will be a serious shake-up in the IDF. This is the real cause for the delay in taking necessary measures to whip the IDF in shape, and bring it to a state of readiness to meet approaching dangers. We may end up paying a heavy price for this procrastination.

The current probes of local encounters under the guidance of retired senior IDF officers, as praiseworthy as they may be, will not get to the root of Israel’s major failure in the second Lebanon war. Why did the prime minister and defense minister fail to recognize their responsibility for providing safety for the population living in northern Israel? Why didn’t they realize that the air force alone could not suppress Hezbollah’s rocket attacks, and why didn’t they understand that victory and defeat in this war would be measured by the ability, or inability, of Israel to suppress such attacks, which could be achieved only by large-scale ground troop use? Why didn’t the chief of staff press this point in his meetings with them? How could five weeks of constant rocket attacks against Israel go by without appropriate measures being taken? The men responsible for this failure have to go. They cannot be trusted to make the necessary changes in the IDF. And whats more, they cannot be trusted with the fate of Israel in the face of approaching dangers.


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