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Last month, the Northern Command conducted a massive exercise to practice war with Hizbullah. At the time, senior officers claimed that the IDF's working assumption was that the border could flare up at any moment, although it's doubtful anyone believed then that the situation would evolve into an all-out war.
The exercise was considered a groundbreaking success in that it simulated a new concept in the art of warfare under consideration by the General Staff. Dubbed "Integration of Branches," the concept essentially takes the chief of staff out of the operational picture and sets the regional commander, in this case OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Udi Adam, in charge of what the IDF is now calling the "operation zone."
In the past, the regional commander was only in charge of his own ground forces plus a restricted section of the battle zone. Air and navy forces were under the command of the chief of staff, as were decisions about incursions into enemy territory.
This new concept, Adam's brainchild, was implemented last week for the first time in Operation Change of Direction against Hizbullah. In contrast to previous wars, Adam is running the show. He is in charge of ground forces operating in Lebanon, navy missile ships and IAF fighter jets, all out of the underground bunker at command headquarters in Safed. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz is still in the picture, but more on the level of setting policy, dealing with the diplomatic echelon and overseeing Israel's other fronts - in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
But for Adam, his officers say, Operation Change of Direction is more than just another war. He is the first son of an IDF general to also become a member of the General Staff. His father was Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yekutiel Adam, the former IDF deputy chief of staff, killed in June 1982 during Operation Peace for Galilee in Lebanon, the same country where his son is currently pursuing the war against Hizbullah.
Kuti, as he was called, had been appointed head of the Mossad by Menachem Begin but was killed before he could take up the post by a Lebanese gunman at the age of 54, becoming the highest-ranking officer in IDF history to be killed in action. He was the mastermind behind the famous Entebbe raid as well as the bombing of the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq.
When Adam speaks of his father the emotion is noticeable in his voice. "I think and don't think about him," Adam told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "He accompanies me throughout the fighting. Once this is all over I will have time to sit and think things through."
The impact the slain general had on his son is evident. Adam is one of those tough and strict commanders who keeps a safe distance from the public eye, just like his father, his officers say.
The Northern Command post is Adam's second position as an IDF major general, an appointment he received last year after he already had one foot out the door following the completion of his tenure as OC Logistics Directorate, in which he oversaw the smooth military implementation of the disengagement. He is a rare bird within the General Staff, avoiding politicians, and has very few confidants, those who serve with him say. He is far from arrogant and weighs every word before speaking.
Adam, his officers said, took the news of the kidnapping of two soldiers in the North last week by Hizbullah very hard. "He recognizes that there was an operational failure there," one officer explained. "But at the moment there is a war and we try not to focus on it." Brig.-Gen. Avi Ashkenazi, brother of Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, a former deputy chief of staff and the newly-appointed director-general of the Defense Ministry, has been appointed to head an investigative committee into the incident.
But with time running out for Israel's operation in the North, Adam is under pressure to step up the offensive so the operation can be declared a victory for Israel, with Hizbullah dealt a severe enough blow to prevent it from even thinking about launching any such future attack.
That offensive is currently focused on how to stop the Katyusha rocket launchings. The stated goal of the mission is to "significantly hurt" Hizbullah, but even though several members of the General Staff said this week that 40-50 percent of the group's military capabilities had been destroyed, it still succeeded in firing between 100-150 rockets a day at Israel. Officers also speak about "high-ranking" Hizbullah operatives killed in the action. But ask them for the names of the bad guys killed and they suddenly turn quiet.
So where has the damage been done? Israel has been laying siege to Lebanon, has bombed the Beirut Airport as well as highway bridges and entire neighborhoods, but Hizbullah remains as stubborn an enemy as it was before the operation was launched. Until now, the majority of Israel's offensive has been by air and last week's assault on central Lebanon appears to have also proven effective in destroying some of the terrorist organization's long-range missiles.
But to get to the Katyusha launchers in the south, the IDF has decided to deploy elite units inside Lebanon in pinpoint operations similar to the one during which two Maglan soldiers were killed on Wednesday. The IDF has been holding back from recommending a massive ground incursion although the Northern Command, Adam insists, is ready for the possibility.
The thing about the air campaign, a high-ranking IAF officer explained this week, is that it was based on intelligence and since Israel is not on the ground in Lebanon, the intelligence is difficult to come by. The IDF, however, does not want to have to send troops into Lebanon, officers said. The loss of lives there would be unbearable, they explained, referring to a list of surprises in store for them should ground forces enter - ranging from Hizbullah covert cells to hundreds if not thousands of mines and explosive devices planted along the border.
But Adam, the man at the forefront of the campaign, says that damage has been caused to the Hizbullah. Yes, he admits, it is still firing rockets at Israel but it is also simultaneously suffering loses. Time is of the essence here, he says, and while some generals have spoken of the need for another week, Adam seeks more than that. "This won't take months or a year but we do need several more weeks," he says.
Adam, however, is not fooling himself into believing that a military operation will solve the Hizbullah problem. He believes the violence will ultimately only cease via a diplomatic solution, one that sees Lebanon fully implement UN Resolution 1559 calling for the disarmament of Hizbullah as well as the deployment of Lebanese soldiers along the border with Israel.
"There is nothing that can be solved just by the military," he says. "There is a need for a diplomatic solution and that is what we are doing - trying to create the optimal conditions for a diplomatic solution."
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