The decline started with operation Defensive Shield in 2002. Military officials and politicians were convinced that during the operation ground forces were engaged in a very intense “training session,” which allowed them to slow down the pace later. There was no money anyway. So now it was ok to keep stockpiles in warehouses low and stop training reservists.
Each time, they deprived this horse of a bit more water and food. They thought it would get used to it. But it didn’t get used to it – it almost died. And this is how the reserve army entered the Lebanon war.
The defense establishment viewed the deliberate weakening of ground forces as a “calculated risk. According to the state comptroller’s report, nothing there was calculated. The security establishment took delusional risks; incomprehensible ones.
For example, on the eve of the war the reserve army’s medical equipment was not refreshed – deliberately and knowingly. Had the war been expanded, heaven forbid, and the entire reserve army called up, the IDF would have been fighting without medical equipment. What kind of normal military command would dare take such risk?
In August 2005, when the Israeli government approved the IDF’s work plan for 2006, it knew that the reserve army would not be able to operate as needed should an all-out war break out. Then-Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz made it clear to the government that the IDF’s reserve army is unprepared, but this did not even warrant a footnote in the discussion.
Amazingly enough, in November 2006, following the war, Defense Minister Amir Peretz claimed that nobody told him about problems in the ground forces and that he didn’t know the reserve army was unprepared for action. Maybe they just didn’t want to concern him.
Running out of ammunition
The state comptroller suspects that the army did not present the political leadership with the full implications of the reserve army’s condition. No wonder. Based on what the state comptroller says, the army itself does not know its own level of readiness to this day. When military commanders say that the “IDF is ready” or “unprepared,” this is mostly based on intuition and gut-feelings, and less so on objective data.
In 2000, then-Chief of Staff Mofaz asked that the army, and particularly the ground forces, establish readiness indexes. So he asked for it, so what. Only now is the army presenting software that may provide, in the future, a professional indication of the army’s readiness.
The state comptroller repeats the same things in the chapter that deals with ammunition levels. As it turns out, the army entered the war with only one third of the required level of some critical ammunition items. Luckily the war ended after a month, because the IDF ran out of some essential ammunition. Here too, there were no professional indexes that could provide a realistic picture regarding the army’s ammunition stockpiles.
Nobody analyzed the level of risks that can be taken or their implication, and nobody presented this to the political leadership.
Another chapter is dedicated to the failure of our military and national public relations effort. In light of such failures, what kind of public relations can we expect? In such case, a PR campaign could improve the mood perhaps, but not the situation.
Besides, the state comptroller fails to understand that the PR era is over. Now we are dealing with the era of spins, and there is no need to go far to see it. On the same day that the report on the reserve army crisis on the eve of the war was published, the Israeli government took far-reaching, historical decisions regarding benefits to reserve soldiers. What a coincidence. Only the twisted mind of a journalist could see a link between these two matters.