IDF commanders who were slammed during the Second Lebanon War for sitting behind their Plasma screens, distanced from their soldiers in the battlefield, received unexpected support Monday evening from former IDF Chief of Staffs, Lieutenant General (res) Moshe Ya'alon.
At a Tel Aviv University conference, Ya'alon explained that the advanced technology available today has created new circumstances.
"The best place for a commander to be is seated behind a screen. We have always taught that the commander's place is wherever he can make the best decisions. If that means that by watching a screen, he can receive real-time information about the enemy's location and that of our own forces, than why should a brigade commander crawl in the ditches with night-vision equipment, assuming the lens cap is removed…?" he joked.
After ribbing Defense Minister Amir Peretz, he continued to back the commanders' performance: "Is that what they need to be there for? So the soldiers can see them? There are sometimes difficult circumstances that require the officer's presence, especially when things become complicated. But under regular circumstances he should control everything from the screens."
Criticizing successorThroughout Ya'alon's speech he did not mention the previous Chief of Staff Dan Halutz by name, although he did criticize his replacement for not involving the General Staff enough about what was going on. "You are not the specialist on Nablus or Lebanon. Your subordinates need to know that they are the experts. They provide you with the information you need to make the decisions," he said.
"I can see similarities between what happened after the victory of the Six Day War at Yom Kippur, and the failures of the Second Lebanon War after the accomplishments achieved regarding Palestinian terrorism and the successful military performance during the disengagement. This is what happens with success; you believe that everything will come easily."
Ya'alon expressed support for Israeli policies during the years that he was chief of staff, concerning decisions made that were beyond specific responses to Hizbullah provocations. He said that towards the end of his term, halfway through 2005, he instructed his staff to reassess the situation following Syria's exit from Lebanon, the US involvement in Iraq and the disengagement.
"It was clear to me that after the disengagement we would have trouble from the North and the South," he said.
According to Ya'alon, in 2006, the IDF should have been prepared for a conflict scenario in Gaza and in Lebanon: "On July 12, the reserve army should have been drafted; the regular army should have undergone training in conditions simulating urban warfare conditions."
He said that while he was in Washington, at the beginning of the war, he understood that Israel was trying to launch an aerial campaign that would prepare the ground for political moves within a few days. "I was shocked when I understood from the Americans that Israel was asking for more time, and they still hadn't decided to draft the reserves. That was when I lost all comprehension of what they were trying to do," he said.