Four years ago, almost to the day, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland presented the findings of the last internal IDF probe he conducted.

The date was July 10, 2006 – just two days before war broke out with Hizbullah in the North – when Eiland, a former head of the IDF’s Strategic Planning Directorate and the Israeli National Security Council, submitted the findings from his probe into the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Schalit by Hamas.

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Eiland was extremely careful in the wording of his conclusions. While there were various “operational mishaps” leading up to the kidnapping, Eiland refrained from recommending sanctions against officers in the Gaza Division.

The only penalty was the recording of the incident in the personal files of several senior officers from the Southern Command, including Col. Avi Peled, commander of the Southern Gaza Brigade.

A year later though, Peled was appointed commander of the Golani Brigade, a clear indication that Schalit’s kidnapping was not held against him. The commander of the Gaza Division at the time, Brig.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, also emerged unscathed from the probe. He is currently awaiting a promotion in rank and an appointment within the General Staff. In the meantime he has served as a member of Eiland’s investigative team.

In contrast to Eiland’s report, the conclusions drawn by the team that investigated the kidnapping on July 12, 2006, of reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were harsher.

Although that team’s report did not issue personal recommendations against him, Brig.-Gen. Gal Hirsch – the equivalent of Kochavi in the North – retired from active duty following the report’s publication.

A number of senior officers in the IDF referred to Eiland’s last probe over the past few days as a possible indication of what can be expected in the 150-page report he is scheduled to submit to Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi on Sunday night on the IDF’s Operation Sea Breeze 7 to stop the Gaza-bound flotilla from Turkey in late May, which ended with nine dead Turkish nationals and unprecedented criticism of Israel.

Leaks from within the IDF indicate that, again this time, Eiland will refrain from issuing personal recommendations against senior officers. He will, however, criticize the IDF, which he reportedly has concluded did not properly prepare for the flotilla and the possible repercussions.

That is likely why Ashkenazi chose Eiland – because he is a safe choice when it comes to officers’ careers.

Eiland’s probe though touches on a larger issue within current military culture regarding the readiness of IDF officers to take responsibility for their actions. The norm, for better or for worse, within the IDF in recent years has been to avoid responsibility, to issue general findings in military probes and thereby let officers who should be held responsible off the hook.

Opinions within the IDF are split into two schools of thought. One school holds that Eiland’s probe is on the operational level and needs to issue recommendations on a tactical level how to carry out a similar operation in the future.

The other school of thought is that Eiland needs to single out specific officers. One officer could be the commander of the Navy, V.-Adm. Eliezer Marom.

This school of thought holds that, following such a tactical mishap which led to extraordinary diplomatic damage, someone needs to pay the price. Only thus will the defense establishment learn from its mistakes.

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