IDF soldiers take part in Operation Protective Edge.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
It has been more than two years since Operation Protective Edge. Yet despite reports of infighting within the cabinet and allegations that the military echelon withheld information from the political leadership, no official investigation has been published of the decision-making process before, during and after the 50-day-long war.
For the sake of comparison, it took the Winograd Committee just eight months to publish its preliminary report on the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
On Tuesday there was another delay in the release of a credible report that could shed light on what happened in the summer of 2014. A Knesset subcommittee postponed a vote that was expected to give a green light to the publication of a state comptroller’s report on the war. Apparently, the delay was out of concern that sensitive security information would be released.
While we understand the need to protect classified information, it is essential that the non-classified parts of the state comptroller report be published as soon as possible.
Only through its publication is there hope that the report will lead to a real change in the security cabinet’s decision-making process. The government also has a moral responsibility to the families of fallen soldiers who deserve to know what happened. Published reports have an impact.
Unpublished reports are quickly forgotten.
Lasting 50 days, the Gaza war of 2014 was one of the longest military operations in Israel’s history. Seventy-two Israelis – almost all of them IDF soldiers – were killed. Yet the achievements of the prolonged incursion were limited.
Only after it was launched did the political and military leadership agree to set an objective of destroying Hamas tunnels that launch attacks in Israel. Within months after the war, Hamas managed to rebuild its tunnel network.
High-ranking officers have complained that their superiors prevented them from taking a more aggressive approach to the destruction of the tunnels. From portions of the report leaked to the press it has emerged that there was intense infighting between the military and cabinet members. Excerpts of transcripts from the security cabinet during the operation published Monday by Yediot Aharonot reveal sharp exchanges between then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett, who served as economy minister at the time of the war.
A picture emerges of a dysfunctional decision-making process. Bennett complained that security cabinet ministers were not provided with enough information from the military echelon to make informed decisions. He said that he was forced to initiate meetings with commanders in the field to gather more information. Meanwhile, Ya’alon criticized Bennett for initiating these meetings, claiming that doing so undermined his authority.
To Bennett’s credit, he led a post-war campaign to revamp the security cabinet. In May, he threatened to vote against adding Yisrael Beytenu to the coalition unless the government agreed to initiate a number of reforms: appointing a military secretary to give cabinet members security updates; more trips by ministers to IDF units; and more access to sensitive intelligence information.
At Bennett’s request, a commission was established to suggest ways to smooth the interface between the security cabinet and the military and to improve the functioning of the security cabinet. Headed by retired general Yaakov Amidror, the commission presented its recommendations in December. These included the establishment of a new body under the National Security Council that updates and briefs cabinet ministers; educates ministers who are unfamiliar with military matters; and clarifies the responsibilities of the cabinet during routine situations as well as in times of emergency.
Publication of the state comptroller’s report will increase the chances that the recommendations made by Amidror will be implemented.
In every war or military operation mistakes are made.
We are all human and people make mistakes, especially at times of war. The difference between effective and ineffective leadership is that the former learns from its mistakes while the latter does not.
The next conflict with Hamas-ruled Gaza is not a question of if but one of when. Publication of the state comptroller’s report will increase the chances that Israel’s leaders will not repeat the mistakes made in the war of 2014.
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