The IDF dragged its feet in developing and procuring technology to locate underground terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip and when trying to tackle the Kassam rocket threat, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss revealed Wednesday in his annual audit of Israeli government offices.
In 2005, the comptroller's office audited the IDF, the Defense Ministry and the Shin Bet's (Israel Security Agency) handling of the Palestinian tunnel threat. In June 2006, Palestinian terrorists tunneled their way into Israel, killed two soldiers and kidnapped Cpl. Gilad Schalit.
The audit found that the military only began formulating a systematic plan for confronting the tunnel threats in December 2004, after a number of tunnels had been used in deadly attacks against IDF outposts in the Gaza Strip.
The work done at the time, however, was incomplete, the comptroller wrote in the report, accusing the IDF - and particularly the General Staff - of failing to properly integrate the field work being run by Chief Engineering Officer Brig.-Gen. Shimon Daniel with Military Intelligence and the Shin Bet.
In January 2005, a former officer appointed by then-chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Ya'alon submitted a report on the tunnel threat and recommended that the IDF establish a "Tunnel Administration" that would be responsible for coordinating between all of the various defense branches involved in combating the threat. The administration was never established.
The comptroller further slams Ya'alon for failing to fully implement a decision of his to combine an engineering force - specially established to deal with the tunnels - with the Air Force's Search and Rescue Unit.
In 2005, the IDF Operations Directorate composed an operational doctrine on the Palestinian tunnels used to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip, which called for an "inter-ministerial effort" to combat the threat. According to the comptroller, meetings were subsequently held by the IDF and government officials, although without the presence of Daniel - or any other official from the IDF's Engineering Corps.
"Enough attention was not given to the threat when the operational doctrine was drafted," the comptroller wrote. "Therefore, an important opportunity to properly deal with the tunnel threat was missed."
The Defense Ministry's Research & Development Directorate (MAFAT) was also accused by the comptroller of dragging its feet in the development of technology that could be used to locate tunnels. According to the report Mafat asked local defense companies in 1990 to present ideas, and one system was even examined by 1997. However, the comptroller found however that between 1997 and 2001, no progress had been made.
Concerning Kassam rocket attacks, the comptroller found that the IDF had failed to create a comprehensive plan for combating the rockets launched from the Gaza Strip over the past six years. The IDF did also not place enough weight on the Kassam and tunnel threats, he said.
While the Defense Ministry recently chose an defense system to intercept the Palestinian rockets, the project has yet to be financed. According to a senior IDF officer, the Iron Dome system - developed by Rafael Armament Development Authority - will be included in the IDF's upcoming five-year budget plan.
The report also accuses the IDF Ground Forces Command, as well as MAFAT, for taking too long to develop and procure systems that could identify and track Kassam launches.
According to the report, Ya'alon had ordered the IDF's Southern Command to deal with the Kassam threat, but did not provide it with sufficient resources. The Southern Command did eventually establish a "coordination room" for the different military branches involved in thwarting rocket fire, but it was ineffective, the comptroller reported.
In response to the accusations raised in the report, the IDF Spokesperson's Office released a statement: "The IDF sees the comptroller's report as an important tool for improving the military."
Concerning the tunnels, the statement said: "The [tunnel] warfare was a new type...that had never been known before in Israel or had a technological solution anywhere else in the world."
Turning to the comptroller's conclusions on its handling of the Kassam threat, the IDF said: "Rocket fire poses a complicated operational challenge and there are no immediate magic solutionsâ€¦Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky has led an IDF-Mafat team studying the Kassam threat."