Leaked letter by senior IDF officer hits hard at military failures

Letter by Col. Alon Madanes leaked to Ynet News says commanders addicted to intelligence; army hasn’t learnt lessons from past attacks.

November 18, 2018 18:05
3 minute read.
Leaked letter by senior IDF officer hits hard at military failures

IDF forces on the Gaza border, November 13, 2018. (photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)


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A letter by a senior IDF officer leaked to the press on Saturday was highly critical of the IDF’s top brass, saying that military procedures have cost too many lives and lack of discipline has led to the deaths of soldiers.

The letter was written by Col. Alon Madanes and sent to Central Command chief Maj.-Gen Nadav Padan and his predecessor Maj.-Gen. Ronny Numa as a summary of his two years as operations officer in the IDF’s Central Command.

The letter, which was leaked to the Ynet news website, was highly critical of organizational, cultural and operational flaws in the military’s conduct and in particular that of the command – which is in charge of the West Bank.

Calling his last position “the most frustrating and ungrateful position I’ve experienced in my military service,” Madanes said that while the security challenges facing the Central Command in the West Bank have increased, the numbers of soldiers deployed to the area has decreased to a point where the IDF is unable to achieve its goals.

“The assessment of the situation in the command has hardly changed in the last two years. The territory remains the same territory and the enemy is the same enemy [but] the number of troops in the Central Command is insufficient to meet its missions,” he wrote, adding that “in my opinion, too many Israelis have been killed and wounded in the past two years.”

Madanes called the July 2017 Halamish attack in which three members of the Salomon family were killed “a failure for us as an organization – of the Operations Branch, the Shin Bet, the Judea and Samaria Division and the Binyamin region’s Brigade Commander.”

“Some of us will be satisfied with the fact that the number of casualties has declined significantly compared to the Intifada years. But we as an army must be much more demanding toward ourselves,” he wrote.

According to Madanes, while Military Intelligence and the Shin Bet have greatly improved the accessibility of intelligence to troops, there is an “over-dependence” on it by commanders on intelligence rather than learning from past attacks.

“Next year, there will be terror attacks at Judea and Samaria Junction, stabbing attempts at Damascus Gate, rocks will be thrown at three specific locations on Route 443, and in 2020 there will be another terror attack in Halamish,” he wrote, referring to locations repeatedly targeted in recent years by Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank and in Jerusalem’s Old City.

“This document should be archived and pulled out in two years, and then we’ll see who’s the fool — me or those addicted to intelligence,” he wrote.

He also criticized several technological projects which he said “were made on shaky professional grounds, sometimes on the opinion of one junior officer.”

Pointing to the project in which cameras were placed on Route 443, a road frequently hit by Palestinian terror attacks, Madanes said that even the millions of shekels invested in the project “didn’t succeed in stopping the trend of lone-wolf terrorism.”

Madanes also said that there has been erosion in ethical conduct, and many soldiers and commanders in the field are “unprofessional” and lack basic legal knowledge.

“I feel a significant erosion of our ethical conduct as a system and a great lack of discipline,” he wrote.

“There were many incidents in the last two years in which we could have prevented casualties and fatalities had we dealt with cases of negligence in a timely and strict manner,” he said, citing the deaths of Lt. David Golovensitz – who was shot in an accidental discharge during a military drill in Hebron – and the accidental shooting death of St.-Sgt. Shahar Strug by his friend at the Nachshon Base in the central West Bank.

He said that the two incidents were not adequately studied to prevent similar cases and the decisions that have been taken haven’t been implemented yet.

Madanes, who recently landed the role of IDF’s attaché at the Israeli Embassy in the United States, wrote in the opening paragraph of his letter that it was written “out of great concern and with the understanding that we have no other country or military.”

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