With the publication of the Winograd Commission's report on the Second Lebanon War just days away, the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has issued its own report Monday on the war and its lessons.
"The government and the IDF knew that by deciding to react to Hizbullah's aggression (and the kidnapping of IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev) they might be subjecting large segments of the Israeli population to direct enemy fire," MK Tzachi Hangebi (Kadima), head of the committee, said in the report's prologue.
"The IDF was supposed to eliminate the threat of Hizbullah's short-range rockets, but in the 34 days of fighting failed to do so… nevertheless, the committee has learned that the lessons derived from the war have been properly assimilated and implemented."
The Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee's report reviews the years leading up to the Second Lebanon War, Hizbullah's military exertion and the time leading up to the kidnapping.
"(Up to that point) Israel chose not to react in any way that could have triggered a full-fledged altercation… that strategy, while firmly based in logic, had a detrimental effect on the military, leading to it being virtually paralyzed," said the report.
'No operational strategy'
The report then reviews the IDF's immediate reaction to the Hizbullah attack, which left three reservists dead and Goldwasser and Regev captive: "The IDF wasted no time launching aerial assaults, but did waste valuable time in launching its ground assault.
"The vacuum created, and mainly the initial Israeli definition of the situation as a 'military campaign' first and a 'war' second, worked in Hizbullah's favor and impaired the war's goals and achievements."
The IDF, states the report, "had no operational strategy tackling a flare-up with the Hizbullah… the lack of such a strategy, along with the lack of readiness of manpower and arms are a serious failure on the Northern Command's part, especially since such an altercation was assumed to be a matter of time."
The report goes on to cite the military's "incoherent orders", its "lack of understating of the strategic goals" and "miscalculation of the time needed to execute the operation."
Faulting the IDF's perception of strength, the report went on to say that the military "had lost sense of old-school, tried and true methods of fighting… which ultimately led to the creation of a chain of operational failures on all levels."
'No sense of old-school military methods' (Photo: AFP)
The report segments the war into three acts: The first – July 12, 2006 – when than IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz refused any kind of ground operation and failed to order reserve mobilization; the second – July 15, 2006 – when the aerial assaults were joined by ground raids and the July 19 government order to the IDF, to use all measures at its disposal to stop the rocket barrage on northern Israel; and the third – July 27, 2006, when the realization the stopping the rocket barrage will involve a wide ground incursion, finally sunk in.
Even that realization, cited the report "was slow in permeating, creating serious doubt as to the ability of both the government and the military's ability to execute such a move."
The Air Force should not have been expected to destroy Hizbullah's entire array of rocket launchers, said the report, especially when "it was known all along that its aerial assaults couldn't do the job alone."
The IDF did launch a series of ground operations, "but their aim was not always clear." Moreover, "the IDF lacked the strategic understanding of the effect the ongoing rocket firing had, thus failing to accomplish the war's operational goal."
Launching a ground operation on August 7, 2006, had little effect at that point: "The ground operation came too late and did very little, failing to damage Hizbullah infrastructure or have it cease its fire," scolds the report.
The mishandling of intelligence
The report further found multiple faults in the mobilization and readiness of the IDF's reserve forces, noting that "most of the reserve units mobilized during the war received no training in the five years prior to the war."
IDF intelligence was cited as well: "Much of the tactical intelligence was mishandled, some was under-processed, some was outdated and much of it failed to reach the units in the field."
The Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee did commend the decision to uphold the UN Security Council's suggested ceasefire, saying it – along with the unfortunate number of the casualties of war noted on the Israeli side – did improve Israel's standing in the UN.
The report concludes with operational recommendations: The IDF must continue to develop the Merkava-4 tanks and missile defense systems; and it must improve the interaction between the IAF and ground forces.
The 151-page report, compiled after numerous meetings between committee members and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, senior IDF officers and reserve soldiers, does not fault the government's conduct during the war.
"The report consciously avoided assigning any personal blame in the military ranks or in the political ones," said Hangebi. "That is why we appointed the Winograd Commission."
"The government should also be held responsible for the war and its outcome," Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Ynet in response.
"The IDF's part in the outcome of things is obvious… no one is waiting for an official report – we have come to the appropriate conclusions and have started implementing the lessons learned," he added.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report