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Photo: Yoav Galai
Winograd Commission
Photo: Yoav Galai
Wrong moves in Lebanon
Failure to define clear objectives, grasp reality, led to Lebanon setback
Regardless of the Winograd Commission's conclusions, there was no doubt something disturbing regarding Israel's conduct in the last war.

 

The main argument articulated by top military officials is that all operations were presented to and approved by the political leadership. The main argument articulated by the political leadership is that it merely approved the army's recommendations. Both sides are right, yet this is not really that important.

 

What were the goals of the war? This depends on who you ask and when.

 

By analyzing the words of political leaders - who were supposed to know, and moreover, set the goals in advance – and by looking into IDF operations, several answers emerge: Releasing the abducted IDF soldiers, curbing rocket attacks on our communities, hitting Lebanese infrastructure in order to exert pressure on Hizbullah, and breaking the Shiite organization. None of that happened.

 

'IDF should have admitted incompetence' 

Military leaders must not have argued or conveyed the sense that the army is able to end rocket attacks. It is enough to examine the last six years, which saw rockets fired from the Beit Hanoun area in the Gaza Strip.

 

There we are talking about a limited area and convenient topography, and yet, thousands of rockets have been fired with the army unable to stop the attacks. So how could it be successful in Lebanon, where rockets were fired by an organized military force out of hundreds of villages and hiding spots located in mountainous topography south and north of the Litani River?

 

The army should have honestly said: We do not know how to stop this. We can massively hit infrastructure and create an outcry in Lebanon, but if you, the political leaders, order us to stop the rocket fire directly and not by exerting pressure on the population, then we have no choice but to enter Lebanon with very large forces and physically stay at any location where rockets can be fired at Israel.

 

This is the way and there is no other way - the army should have said so honestly. Therefore, there was no point in sending troops to engage in courageous battles in several villages, while we never reached most villages and areas.

 

The military leadership should have also realized that in this type of war there is no significance to landing forces deep in enemy territory, because even if you pass a certain area, terrorists continue to hide there, fire rockets at Israel, and hurt out troops, as was the case.

 

The military leadership should have known all this, and therefore it should not have asked for permission to do what it did. It should have proposed massive aerial pulverization of infrastructure or (what I find as less desirable) a wide-scale ground operation.

 

It certainly should not have proposed a sort of crossbreed that suffered from the limitations of a partial attack on infrastructure and the disadvantages of a partial military operation.

 

Unholy trinity

To the military leadership's defense we must note that there was nobody to report to. The government's top political-security leadership failed to understand that its job is not only to approve some of the army's recommendations.

 

This unholy trinity failed to understand that an army, and even the best one, must work vis-à-vis leaders with a broad outlook who see the big picture and understand what is going on.

 

The political-security top brass lacked this ability, and that is why live drone feeds to the office, satellite photos, or any other intelligence material could not help.

 

The political leadership should have known that our freedom to act vis-à-vis the international community, despite being extensive, was nonetheless limited in time, and that there is also a limit to how long the home front can continue being hit by rockets.

 

So as it worked out, we hit them, and they hit us, and even if we hit them harder…so? So what? Is this the message we wished to convey? This is the price paid by those who fire at our towns?

 

Because of time constraints, the need to exact a heavy price, and the wish to refrain from directly hitting civilians – for all those reasons, what was needed is a massive offensive against Lebanese infrastructure that would leave it without electricity or bridges. The "target bank" was full.

 

This would have a created a huge outcry and certainly may have led to a quicker end to the war with a sense of victory, rather than two bleeding sides with one of them winning on points.

 

The political leadership had to make sure that Shiite villages in southern Lebanon suffer. Many Shiite villages deserted by their residents should have become rubble, so that it becomes clear that Hizbullah's support bases are paying a price and that those who fire on Israel's cities are punished severely. This did not happen.

 

How could it be that after about a month of fighting, during the war's final days, we could still see the firing of rockets between two standing buildings in the village of Kila, located right on the border near Metula?

 

How could it be that after a month of war, our soldiers were still being wounded among the still-standing houses of the village of Aita al-Shaab, literately hundreds of meters from the location of the abduction that sparked the war?

 

Our advantage is our technological supremacy and aerial dominance and we must use them, rather than operating in the manner our enemies have been preparing for and expecting for years. It could have been more effective, at a smaller price.

 

The way the war was conducted attests to a lack of understanding of what happened and to sense of being dragged by events rather than leading them. The political leadership must know what it wants and define this to the army.

 

Yet when we do not know what we want and fail to grasp what is going on, how can a war be managed and how can anything be demanded of the military leadership, which urgently needs a master.

 

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