"IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told me that he has no one to work with in the army, they are all politicians," Major-General (Res.) Avigdor 'Yanush' Ben-Gal said at a military conference Wednesday morning in Latrun.
Ben-Gal sharply criticized what he viewed as recent deterioration in the battle-readiness of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
According to Ben-Gal, the technological revolution in the IDF had turned soldiers in bionic machines and sewn fear among senior officers that open criticism would harm chances of career advancement.
Ben-Gal's harsh words came only two days after a frontal assault from Brigadier-General Gal Hirsch, who compared the senior military echelon to a corrupt political party. On Wednesday, Ben-Gal attributed to the chief of staff remarks that apparently approve of Hirsch's point of view.
Speaking for close to an hour at a conference on "combat decision making in the wake of the Second Lebanon War," Ben-Gal discussed the army's performance in past wars and how the military had changed.
According to Ben-Gal, the turning point came in the October 2001 battle over Joseph's Tomb, when the IDF refrained from evacuating a wounded soldier.
He also addressed the issue of new technological development in attempting to fill this vacuum. "We are talking about a technological revolution, part of which was completely surreal and lacking any serious purpose in combat.
"This turned the regular soldier into a bionic one, with an antenna on his head, one camera in his right eye, another in his left, a small computer display on his watch, and another somewhere else. But what does a normal soldier do when the first shot is fired? Throws it all off and hits the deck," Ben-Gal said, provoking a wave of boisterous laughter.
Ben-Gal added that the technological revolution had impaired human contact between commanders, who he said sit in the same base, but spend their time writing each other emails. "Go ask a battalion commander what color eyes his company commander has, and he will tell you he doesn't know because he doesn't put it in the email."
According to Ben-Gal, the aforementioned changes have erased generations-worth of military experience. "What we are left with is this wasteland in which no one is responsible for anything. After the Lebanon war, many general staff officers became silent monks, afraid of expressing their opinions. Today, all anyone who wants to be chief of staff has to do is be the prime minister's military secretary."
Mizrachi: Not laughing
Not all in the audience found humor in Ben-Gal's "performance". Major-General Avi Mizrachi, head of the IDF's Logistics Directorate, who followed Ben-Gal on the podium, started his speech by saying that while he had no intention of engaging with Ben-Gal's remarks or the man himself, the latter's view of things was very one-sided.
Besides expressing concern for the disrespect Ben-Gal showed the general staff, Mizrachi added that he did not agree that IDF commanders remained silent during the war. "I suggest you take a look at the IDF protocols from the war; you might learn something very different."
A response from the Army Spokesperson's Office: "The chief of staff did not speak with Ben-Gal in recent months and certainly said nothing (about the army being full of politians)."