I was going to write something like this but thought that it would be too sad to write. The fact is that the commanding officer running this fight spoke to Ynet the other day and told them that now is not the time to question the IDF, that the time will come later. Considering the loss of lives of soldiers in recent days as well as the inept response to surprise attacks by known enemies, I would suggest that just as the IDF presumably learns from every encounter with the enemy, it must learn from its own failures, not only for the sake of its soldiers and Israel but also to ensure that Israel’s enemies understand that if there were weak spots in Israel’s defense, they have been patched up.
Senior IDF officers are not accustomed to criticism originating outside the army’s ranks, and normally enjoy great immunity from having to take responsibility for their failings. But there have been too many shortcomings and failures in recent weeks for them to be ignored. It is possible that this has been a matter of bad luck, but until the incidents are examined seriously by elements external to the IDF, there is an unpleasant feeling of a whitewash operation going on – and concern that something fundamentally bad is going on in the army.
Because what began at Kerem Shalom repeated itself on the Lebanese border: The IDF was again caught off guard, this time in a well-planned Hezbollah ambush. The intelligence failure and the complacency of the men in the patrol and of their officers had grave results. The entry of the tank into Lebanon, in an attempt to delay the escape of the kidnappers of the two soldiers, was also flawed. It is unclear why, at command levels, they did not anticipate that Hezbollah had laid mines to delay the advance of tanks. It also turned out that the tank in question lacked sufficient protection.
In the navy, too, the case of the destroyer struck by a Hezbollah missile is being investigated by naval officers. In this case, it does not matter what the findings will be. It was a very serious failure. The various versions of the incident that have been released by the IDF are puzzling and raise concerns about what is going on in the navy. “We didn’t know that the Hezbollah had this Iranian-made missile.” Or, “our defense systems were not operating because there were concerns that we would accidentally shoot at IAF aircraft.” Intelligence failure? Underestimating the enemy’s capabilities? Complacency? It appears to be a combination of all of the above.
Then there is the case of the Hezbollah position near Avivim. It is not clear how the planners of the operation to destroy the outpost lacked basic intelligence on Hezbollah’s deployment in the area, even though they had been under observation for a long period. Apparently, it turns out, no one was aware of the tunnels near the outpost, and no one anticipated that the Hezbollah fighters lay in ambush for the IDF force.
After that came the collision of two helicopters over Galilee. It is still unclear what caused it, but the resemblance to the helicopter disaster of February 1997 is overwhelming. An investigation over whether the lessons of that accident were ever adopted is vital.
And it should not be forgotten that all this is taking place when the IDF, the most powerful military force in the Middle East, is fighting against a guerrilla force of only several thousand fighters.
Despite the difficulties involved, we should not wait until the end of the fighting: A serious examination, by external elements, of this chain of failures is urgently needed. Indeed, it is critical, because events of recent weeks suggest a real problem in the ranks of the IDF.
I would add that they should also look into why it is that with two gazillion reporters around, they can’t say to people why the hell they are bombing areas. Without explication, it seems to others that this is a random range of attacks. If that is the case, then Israel is doing something contemptible which it should avoid – especially since this is what Hizbullah is doing – but if this is not the case, as many of us assume, then why not explain why certain parts of S. Beirut had to be attacked?