Internal Battle Rages Within IDF Over Combat Readiness
Analysts believe that while there is room for improvement, the Israeli military is prepared for the challenges ahead
A battle is raging within Israel’s defense establishment after an ombudsman accused army commanders of lying about the military’s preparedness for war. “You will not hear [this truth] from the top brass of the [Israel Defense Forces],” Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick wrote to parliament’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. “It’s not just that some aren’t aware, but that even those who are aware are afraid to tell…lest they be swallowed up.”
Brick has over the past year repeatedly sounded the alarm that the IDF is not prepared for a major conflict, leading some analysts to proffer this as a potential reason for Jerusalem’s recent decision to a agree to an unpopular cease-fire with Hamas in lieu of striking harder at the Gaza Strip’s terrorist rulers.
One of Brick’s most significant claims is that officials falsified assessments of the quality of tanks and armored personnel carriers. He also has warned of “serious consequences” of discharging thousands of career soldiers.
While the IDF has rejected the basic premise that it is unprepared for conflict, Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot appointed a committee in September to investigate the allegations.
“Brick has focused mostly on one very specific issue, which is how equipment and weaponry is organized and maintained during peace-time until reserves are called up,” Brig. Gen. Hanan Gefen, former chief of the elite Israeli Intelligence Corps Unit 8200, explained to The Media Line. “Brick contends that the [emergency storage units] are under-staffed, which the military does not believe is a big problem.
“The argument, however, is not about the competence of the IDF, including the intelligence, ground and air forces, so you have to differentiate. Those are the soldiers that carry out the attacks in Syria, for example.”
Gefen also noted that Brick’s findings coincide with growing assertions by right-wing parliamentarians that the military is not aggressive enough. “This is also unrelated,” he concluded, “but there are some politicizing the matter even though this does not apply to the situation in Gaza [and the conclusion earlier this month to not go to war].”
Military preparedness is a sensitive issue in Israel, given the Jewish state has for its entire history been surrounded by enemies and thus perpetually on the brink of conflict. Also, every Israeli is drafted into the army at eighteen years of age and may thus be called to battle at a moment’s notice. Notably, a controversy erupted over the matter following the 2006 war against Hizbullah in Lebanon, which many argue the IDF was not adequately primed for.
“Overall, the chief of staff seems to be correct, as the army currently has a lot of [state-of-the-art] equipment, regularly conducts major exercises and has developed plans for almost every possibility,” Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog, former head of the IDF’s Strategic Planning Division, contended to The Media Line.
“In terms of prioritized units, I believe they enjoy a very high level of preparedness, but this does not necessarily extend throughout the military. When it comes to soldiers, it is a challenge to keep the best possible talent. And because of the added pressure on officers—after the army cut its manpower but not the number of tasks that need to be performed—some have left, and increasingly the private sector can also entice people with job offers. In this respect, Brick makes an important point.”
Today, most analysts agree that Iran’s effort to entrench itself militarily in Syria poses the greatest threat to Israel, one made more acute by Hizbullah’s ongoing acquisition and development of advanced weaponry. As such, the IDF will, in time, undoubtedly be put to the test, which will quickly render the debate moot by laying bare the military’s combat readiness.