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Itay Landsberg Private photo
Itay Landsberg Private photo
 
 

Halutz's great achievement

Army chief should be commended for speedy IDF investigations into Lebanon war

Itay Landsberg
Published: 12.17.06, 10:07 / Israel Opinion

After a month of Katyusha rocket barrages, more than 150 dead, dozens of investigation teams, difficult conclusions by major generals and almost-automatic army chief responses in an attempt to argue and reject each severe report he receives time and again - after all of these things, one achievement is emerging out of the second Lebanon War. A huge achievement.

 

The first Lebanon War was never investigated or examined to this very day. Only a report by Major General Ori Orr regarding friendly fire shocked bereaved families, yet even that didn't lead to any fundamental change. Dozens of soldiers were killed by friendly fire in that war. The Sultan Yakoub battle was investigated only ten years later, but the inquiry was not exhausted.

 

The Yom Kippur War was investigated by the IDF History Branch after 30 years, and even then, its reports were buried by Chief of Staff Yaalon, and only a few of them were published on the occasion of the war's 30-year anniversary.

 

That is, when there was no longer any value to any lesson and after too much time has passed, during which certain incidents likely took place that could have been prevented had some of the war's lessons been implemented. The people and commanders that replaced each other over such a long period in fact left no continuum of learning at the IDF.

 

Neither the first Intifada nor the second were investigated. In fact, the IDF lacks any background or tradition when it comes to investigations and inquiries into events. Even specific failures are scrutinized by a different investigative officer each time. The knowledge is not accumulated, entrenched and studied by the next generations.

 

Amiram Levin, who investigated the conduct of the general staff this time around, was the IDF Northern Command Chief during the Helicopter Disaster. That disaster was investigated by Major General David Ivri. The Flotilla 13 Disaster was investigated by Gabi Ophir, who today manages the Airport Authority. Yoram Yair investigated Madhat Yusuf's death and the incident at Mount Ebal, while Major General Yossi Peled looked into the abduction of IDF troops at Mount Dov in 2000.

 

We can go back in time like this and discover that the failure to investigate and learn lessons meant to prevent the next failures has been going on for a long stretch in IDF history.

 

Everything has been investigated

Therefore, now that the bottom line of each investigating major general has been submitted to Dan Halutz and presented to the general public within a short timetable of three to four months after the war, there is no doubt we are seeing the emergence of an accomplishment in terms of investigation culture.

 

Everything has been investigated and debriefed. Battles of all brigades, emergency warehouses, the preparedness of the reserve forces, the conduct of the general staff and its major generals, and the decision-making in the Northern Command. The IDF has never experienced such depth of truth-telling regarding its failures and such deep penetration into its various activities.

 

The army chief's test now is implementation. Perhaps he may have to quit at the end of the investigations, or once Judge Winograd publishes his findings. Yet Lieutenant General Halutz will leave behind at least one worthy norm following the Lebanon War: The norm of investigation and uncovering of truth at all levels.

 

And if after all this, these investigations will be placed in drawers without their conclusions being implemented in practice, starting from the individual and up to the army chief level, this would serve as a sign that the culture of carelessness and negligence has indeed won. Let's hope that Halutz doesn't let go of at least this achievement of the Lebanon War.

 

The writer is among the initiators of the battalion commanders, brigade commanders, and pilots forum

 

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