What was exposed on Sunday was a chronic disease that every chief of staff passes on to his successor: The military training given to soldiers serving in the home front as part of a basic officers course meant for soldiers in vocational positions in the army. This course does not produce combat soldiers or combat platoon commanders.
Being a combat soldier requires long, specialized training. Not every person who wears a uniform, and even officer ranks, is a combat soldier. There is a reason for the harsh dispute in the army over who deserves the title of combat soldier. Are the cyber people, for example, combat soldiers? The answer is absolutely not. Several weeks ago, on the other hand, the IDF dismissed an Armor Corps officer who had witnessed the stabbing of a policeman and policewoman in Jerusalem and fled the scene of the attack. The army can have claims against such an officer, because it trained him to be a combat soldier.
The natural, human instinct when a truck drives towards you at full speed is to escape. The difference between an ordinary citizen who flees and seeks shelter and a skilled combat soldiers lies in the practice that teaches the combat soldier to overcome the instinct and deal with the threat. The panic that was exposed on camera Sunday is the result of lack of practice, which characterizes the training given to home front soldiers, including in the officers’ school.
The combat soldier’s training is aimed at creating an automatic response to threats. He learns how he should act when the threat is close, when it’s far, when he must fight back immediately, and when to use the famous field training in those seconds when the enemy surprises you and you keep a low profile, study the danger, and only then fight back.
Moreover, it was a group of soldiers in a situation that entailed no alertness, just a field trip. Some 15 to 20 buses with school children park in that place every day when the weather is nice. The United Nations’ center in the Middle East is located several meters away from there. The UN does not disregard threats, and the facility is heavily fortified from every direction.
Several months ago, on the other hand, the Israel Police reduced their presence in a fortified compound at the entrance to the neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, where both regular police and Border Guard officers were stationed. The police cars driving to and from the facility, and the regular police presence in the area, served as a deterring factor that provided a certain amount of protection to thousands of people visiting the East Talpiot promenade and the nearby Goldman promenade. What is left the area are mainly security cameras that play a part in the documentation, but are incapable of deterring or stopping a suicide bomber.