Photo: IDF Spokespersons' Unit
Weapons seized during one of the attempted infiltrations
Photo: IDF Spokespersons' Unit

IDF dependency on technology could be its downfall

Opinion: Recent events on the Gaza border leading to suspension of three Israeli soldiers who failed to engage the enemy in battle should raise a red flag over the army's growing reliance on tech

On the first day of Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip back in summer 2014, a Hamas commando unit arrived at the Kibbutz Zikim beach near the northernmost point of the border with the Palestinian enclave.



The terrorists, who were planning a terror attack on one of the Israeli communities near the Gaza perimeter fence, were spotted by the Israel Navy and troops were dispatched to engage them.


The attempted Hamas infiltration at Zikim, July 2014
The attempted Hamas infiltration at Zikim, July 2014


The forces included an infantry company, a tank platoon and a combat engineering force.


The battle lasted some 40 minutes, during which one of the terrorists was able to attach an explosive device to a tank.


In truth, "battle" would not be the best way to describe what was taking place, at least from the IDF's perspective.


Not a single Israeli soldier charged the terrorists, while the Hamas operatives displayed remarkable courage – as hard as it is to say that about a person whose goal is to murder children.


In the end, two IDF armored vehicles pushed the Palestinian unit back to the coastline, where they were heavily bombarded from air and sea – giving them no chance at all.


Meanwhile, the IDF earlier this week released the results of an investigation into event that took place on the Gaza border in the beginning of this August, in which a force from the Golani Brigade encountered a Hamas gunman infiltrating Israeli territory.


IDF troops protecting Gaza border communities during the recent infiltration incident (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
IDF troops protecting Gaza border communities during the recent infiltration incident (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)


After the commander of the force and two other soldiers were wounded, their sergeant arrived at the scene. According to the investigation, the sergeant and his soldiers failed to engage the enemy as expected and instead turned back (we used to call that running away).


The terrorist was only eliminated after more troops arrived at the scene.


The sergeant and soldiers who did not charge the enemy were suspended earlier this week by the commander of the Golani Brigade, Maj. Gen. Shai Klapper.


According to the pundits, this incident indicates a moral failure that requires a significant shake up of the entire military system.


Granted, the soldiers who didn't charge the Hamas unit did fail to do their job, but if they did so out of fear and do not represent the majority of Israel's forces.


One can say many things about Golani combatants, but they are no cowards. We saw this in the 2014 Battle of Shuja'iyya during Operation Protective Edge, in which 13 Golani soldiers died, and we also saw it in an infiltration attempt at the beginning of this August, in which a Golani force eliminated four armed Hamas militants.


IDF troops sleeping next to their tank on the Gaza border during the 2014 war  (Photo: Getty Images)
IDF troops sleeping next to their tank on the Gaza border during the 2014 war (Photo: Getty Images)


The fact is, the military has a different problem, for in recent years it has become addicted to technology.


Every encounter with hostile forces is met with precise fighter jet fire. There is nothing wrong with that in and of itself. There is no difference between taking out terrorists with a missile launched from an aircraft, a tank shell or by infantry soldiers.


The only thing that matters is getting the job done, and if it could be done without risking soldiers – all the better.


The problem is that our dependency on technology makes us forget that sometimes there is no other alternative but to charge the enemy – like in all previous wars.


Old charge weapons such as swords and bayonets may have been replaced by Tavor assault rifles and Negev machine guns, but there is still no difference – they all get the job done.


There will not always be an available aircraft and sometimes, like in the aforementioned Gaza border incident, a commander gets hurt and someone needs to replace him. Otherwise, we just might find terrorists at our gates.


Every soldier and commander should know that ground missiles are no alternative for a rifle or a machine gun, whatever the make. Similarly, every commander must know that state of the art observation equipment is no replacement for good old binoculars, and that evacuating wounded by helicopter cannot always replace a stretcher borne on the shoulders of your comrades.


One day we probably will fight using robots. One day we probably won't have to fight at all - but that day is still very far away and until then, there is no substitute for boots on the ground.


פרסום ראשון: 08.24.19, 20:20
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