Knesset report blasts PM, cabinet on failure to command IDF
Subcommittee publishes bipartisan report detailing political echelons' aversion to setting clear objectives for army, propensity to shirk responsibility; Eisenkot lauded for managerial skills but report’s conclusions warn Israel unprepared for next conflict.
The subcommittee, chaired by MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) and part of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, highlighted worrying findings in its report, the content of which was entirely classified save for the portion made public Monday.
The report is the culmination of two years of work by the subcommittee, which accompanied the drawing up of, and implementation of, the "Gideon" plan.
Conclusion in the report were adopted by all members of the committee, both coalition and opposition, led by Shelah and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee MK Avi Dichter (Likud).
The committee's members signed the confidential report which was delivered to the prime minister and the defense minister, as well as to the cabinet ministers, the IDF, the National Security Council (NSC) and other operational agencies.
Severe deficiencies were also highlighted in the report regarding the political echelons' functioning, about which it was said were giving the IDF improper instruction.
Moreover, the report also set tasks and target dates for politicians, as well as the prime minister, to ensure the army reaches maximal readiness to achieve its various goals and missions.
On the one hand, Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot was lauded in the document for his daring and managerial capabilities in drafting a program that includes a vision and complex organizational challenges and for harnessing the entire army to achieve the goals it set.
On the other, members of the committee claimed they have found shortcomings in the rate of forming certain essential capabilities in the army. This failing, the report documents, was the result of the political ranks not fulfilling its role of setting policy to then be implemented by the army.
For instance, the paper stated the cabinet first discussed the "Gideon" scheme three months after it had already been implemented. The National Security Council, on the other hand, was not kept abreast of the plan's intricacies for months.
The National Security Council (NSC) was singled out for being an institutionally weak agency, and it was hinted it was being deliberately weakened further. In its current framework, the report claimed, without involvement or even knowledge of relevant details, the NSC has become patently irrelevant.
This irrelevancy, the committee claimed, stemmed from the fact both the politicians and the army officials consider it to be such. The report even went so far as to charge that should the NSC cease to exist, nothing would change in building the army's agenda.
The report's non-classified section further elaborated that the failings in the work of political echelons and the NSC identified by the State Comptroller of Israel during Operation Protective Edge were still unresolved, and no conclusions were drawn or implemented. This stood in stark contrast, the report pointed out, to the fruitful inquiry carried out by the army.
The "Gideon" program, Shelah's report posited, saw the spending of hundreds of billions of shekels of taxpayers' money in order to maintain the country's security.
Israel's elected officials, however, shirked their responsibility as the army's commanders-in-chief to provide it with clear instructions and to ensure they are followed.
The government has also failed in opening an effective communications channel with the army ensuring the latter would be directed towards achievable goals and worthwhile aims.
This breach of trust by the elected officials, it was stated, endangers the army's ability to accomplish its objectives.
The report's main conclusion was that the "prime minister and the cabinet's lack of engagement and skirting away from responsibility does demonstrable harm to the IDF's ability to be prepared for the threats Israel faces. The army works from the bottom up with neither instruction nor the support of the elected officials, who consistently abstain from setting clearly defined goals and achievements for the army."
The report then went on to set goals and timetables for mending the situation it protested:
By the third quarter of 2019 (the next elections), the army must communicate a validated and public national security perception, with the prime minister, cabinet and National Security Council heading this effort;
By the end of 2019 the minister of defense and NSC must formulate the IDF's strategy (operative perception);
Building a multi-year operational plan by 2020.
"The political ranks' failure to carry out their responsibilities endangers the army's ability to meet its objectives. Security often has many secrets, some of which I've been privy to. But security itself is no secret, and the society providing the IDF with its resources not only should receive a truthful bill of goods for how they're being used, but should also act as the backbone of what allows the army to operate," said MK Shelah after the report's publication.
"The chief of staff understood this point when he made the IDF's strategy public. The committee and I followed the same perception," he continued.
Following its publication, the IDF issued its own response. "The subcommittee's report was received by the IDF and a detailed response was provided. The report's conclusions will be studied as part of the general staff's operations. The IDF welcomes any control and oversight measures on its activity," the army said.