The first episode of "Guilty of his own death," a documentary by Orna Ben Dor was aired on national TV Tuesday evening just a few hours before chief of staff Dan Halutz's resignation became known, a little after midnight.
The title of the three part documentary is a quote taken from IDF terminology that often appears on the army's report documents probing military accidents, botched commands, and the death of soldiers resulting from friendly fire: Its meaning is one; the victims are responsible for their deaths.
Although the documentary originally set out to examine the practice of cover ups pertaining to misguided commands and military accidents during the past 20 years, and was three years in the making, it coincided with the outbreak of the recent war.
Ben Dor's documentary attempts to show that the rampant practice of "cover ups" is what inevitably led to the second Lebanon war during this summer for which Dan Halutz has been forced to take responsibility. Little did Ben Dor know he would be handing in his resignation the night the first episode was aired.
In his letter of resignation Tuesday night Halutz lent credence to Ben Dor's analysis, stating: "One of the central things learned from the investigations (into the Lebanon war) is that the IDF system is deeply affected by long-term processes. Often, this influence is not detected, and we are unaware of the extent of their consequences. These processes have implications for Israeli society, in general, and for overall military capabilities, in particular."
He added: "The IDF's resilience stems from the public support it enjoys. Unfortunately, this last area of support has eroded in recent years."
Brothers in arms
Ben Dor's documentary outlines the events that led to the deaths of a number of soldiers due to military accidents. She presents the testimonies of comrades in arms and the stories of parents who never stopped probing the circumstances that led to their loved ones' deaths.
They often went above the heads of the military and in one case a couple even hired top notch attorney David Libai to investigate circumstances that were not forthcoming from the army. But most importantly, the documentary deals with questions regarding military tribunals that ultimately find senior officers innocent while the lower ranks are found guilty, including the casualties who can no longer speak out to defend themselves.
In her documentary it is not the media that is divulging facts the army would rather keep quiet, but rather, the dead soldier's comrades in arms who have come to speak out, just as they did following the botched and costly war during the summer.
Whether Halutz's resignation will come as some sort of consolation for the bereaved parents and ease the frustration of the reserve soldiers serving in the last war - who have relentlessly been calling for his resignation - it seems that the longtime culture of military cover ups has been dealt a death blow.
Following the findings of the Winograd Commission and Halutz's ensuing resignation, military commanders of the highest ranks will be fully aware that they, and not their subordinates, will be held accountable for the mishaps of war as well as for military accidents.
Will this first step create a domino effect in the military echelons, the Defense Ministry and perhaps in the Prime Minister's Office as well? Time will tell.
The prime candidates to replace Halutz are his current deputy Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky and the Director General of the Ministry of Defense, former Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj. Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi. They would do well to learn the lessons of the new culture of accountability before taking up their new posts.