How can we explain the amazing fact that the great IDF is avoiding a clash in Gaza like fire? That it prays every morning for the “lull” to continue and that Palestinian organizations do not mean what they say?
Regrettably, the IDF has not changed, and just like what happened in the Second Lebanon War, it simply does not wish to fight. When there was no other choice, it sent the Air Force to do the job vis-à-vis the fortified Hizbullah, even though the General Staff had a detailed plan for a ground incursion. Today, when there is no choice, they send the Air Force to strike in Gaza, in what is a standard, dull response lacking any inspiration or thinking.
Back in Lebanon, as is the case now, we did not see an army that safeguards civilians, but rather, we saw civilians safeguarding the army whose soldiers are put away in their bases as if they were made of chocolate. And when, heaven forbid, a new recruit base is damaged by Qassams, they evacuate it, while leaving the civilians in the area.
How did our army lose the “killer instinct” that its commanders used to possess once upon a time? Why is the performance we see so mediocre and uninspiring? Why is our General Staff lethargic? How could it be that an army that enjoys an annual budget of NIS 50 billion (roughly $13 billion) in 2007 fails to function? Why do we invest 17% of our national budget in inaction and lack of deterrence? Isn’t it a waste of money?
Recipe for restraint
In order to understand these grim results, we must examine the reasons for them, and correct the problem quickly:
- Over-legalization curbed the army’s personal initiative. Why should anyone risk the prospect of facing humiliating commissions of inquiry, head-rolling, and a termination of one’s career? After all, any confrontation would lead to an inquiry anyway. No senior commander is willing to take such risk. The person who today controls the army is not the chief of staff, but rather, the attorney general.
- A restraint in the form of “human rights” organizations whose objective is not necessarily in Israel’s favor
has been limiting the army in the past two decades. They fundraise abroad and make a living by harassing the army. Everyone knows those groups. With the High Court of Justice’s enforcement, it turns out that their effect in dwarfing the military was deterring, and even lethal.
- Israel’s public opinion views everything today through the prism of casualty figures – this is the only indication of military success or failure. The army does not wish to embark on war or a clash because it knows that a war exacts casualties. The army does not fear the enemy, but rather, it fears the mothers, the screaming talkbackers, the verdict of the street, and the journalists who view the dismissal of a general as a professional achievement.
- The mental privatization process undergone by Israeli society in the past decade, and not for the better. We see excess of individualism, whereby only the individual is of interest to us, rather than the State or the army.
The chief of staff is aware of all of the above. He knows that sinking into Gaza’s refugee camps would again turn society against him and against the IDF. The army knows that it does not enjoy true backing on the home front, in today’s Israel where “I” rules and where social solidarity had been cast away. They fail to understand that today it’s Sderot, but tomorrow it will be Tel Aviv.
A voracious media, zero tolerance for casualties, suicidal individualism, good people who leave the army because of its declining prestige, and the lawyers who lie in wait – these are the factors that prevent the IDF from operating. This has not about Hizbullah or Hamas. Today, the IDF does not look ahead in fear; rather, it looks back, to the home front, with much greater fear. Its gravest fear is to simply be left all alone.
The IDF is no longer the “people’s army.” It is an army that fears the people.