Division commanders taking the heat

IDF Chief of General Staff: "We'll check exactly where every commander was."

September 27, 2006 05:24
3 minute read.
Division commanders taking the heat

IDF armor lebanon 298.88. (photo credit: AP [file])


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IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Dan Halutz and Defense Minister Amir Peretz will eventually agree on a candidate for the IDF Northern Command and Maj.-Gen. Udi Adam will be allowed to go home, thereby avoiding the summary judgment of the Winograd Committee and other sundry investigating bodies. With the field clear of the main figure who personified, perhaps unjustly, the IDF's failure in Lebanon this summer, another round of recriminations and account settling will begin. In the firing line this time: the four division commanders who actually managed the fighting on the ground.

  • The second Lebanon war: JPost.com special report Of the four, Brig.-Gen. Gal Hirsh was the first to be fingered for blame. As commander of the Galilee division, he is responsible for the July 12 attack in which Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were captured that triggered the war. Any operational failures that might still emerge will be laid at his door, but that isn't the main accusation being leveled at him. During the war, Hirsh was already described by officers at different levels as being disconnected both from the general staff and from the forces in the field. He was seen as the embodiment of the charge being made that the new generation of IDF generals have become addicted to plasma screens instead of going out and seeing the situation on the ground for themselves. Halutz was particularly revealing in an interview at the height of the war. When asked about the criticism of Hirsh, he declined to back the officer and only said that during the fighting, no one would be replaced. Halutz sounded even more threatening last week in his first interview after the war when he said, "We'll check exactly where every commander was." In addition to Hirsh, the officers under scrutiny are Brig.-Gen. Guy Tzur, who commanded Division 162, which operated in the central sector with regular IDF units, and is being blamed now for the breakdown in communications between the brigades under his command, Brig.-Gen. Erez Tzukerman and Brig.-Gen. Eyal Eizenberg, who commanded divisions consisting mainly of reserve units. Eizenberg has also been criticized for not utilizing all the units at his disposal. All four were seen before the war as high-flyers, officers who would go far in their careers. Now, even if they aren't disciplined in a formal way, they will be tainted by failure, passed over when the choice promotions come up, edged out of the race up to the narrow pinnacle of the pyramid. Many officers believe that the ugdonerim, the division commanders, are being unfairly targeted. "The ugdonerim are the most convenient targets," said one officer at one of the division headquarters. "They are visible, identified with battles in a specific area and scapegoating them satisfies the public appetite for head-rolling. But not all of them are equally to blame." But having the division commanders take the blame isn't a new development of this war; it's been the prevailing fashion in the IDF for a few years. In a series of scandals and operational mishaps, the blame went up the hierarchy and stopped there. In 1987, after a glider-borne terrorist managed to kill six soldiers next to Kiryat Shmona, the sentry was blamed for running away and no officers were punished. Ever since, "the sentry syndrome" has been a buzzword denoting evasion of responsibility. The IDF has tried to avoid this accusation, and gradually the "sacrificial lamb" has risen through the ranks. But generally, the buck stopped before it reached the senior generals of the general staff. They were too high above the battlefield to be touched by its debris. But if the army continues to exact judgment only from its senior field officers, many within the IDF fear that the next generation of commanders will think twice before signing on for a long-term military career.

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