IDF opens 2nd course to train population liaison officers

Week-long course aimed at helping Israel minimize harm to civilians during future operations in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.

IDF Soldiers 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF Soldiers 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As Israel continued Sunday to call on the United Nations to cancel the Goldstone Report, the IDF opened the second course for a new military post that has been established within combat brigades and battalions and is aimed at helping Israel minimize harm to civilians during future operations in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.
Called population liaison officer, the post is filled by reservists with the rank of captain or major.
The week-long course is being held at the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) school inside the Tzrifin Base near Rishon Lezion.
The timing of the opening of the second course coincided with Judge Richard Goldstone’s announcement in a Washington Post oped over the weekend that he no longer believed that Israel had intentionally targeted civilians during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in 2009.
The first course was held in October. During the course, officers are trained to recognize situations that could potentially cause damage to civilians and civilian infrastructure in a combat zone.
In October, commander of the COGAT school, Lt.-Col. Hatib Mansour told The Jerusalem Post that if such officers had been deployed inside IDF battalions during Operation Cast Lead two years ago, it was possible that the criticism against Israel would not have been as severe.
“If there would have been officers like these in the battalions I cannot say that there would not have been a Goldstone Report but it would have spared some of the problems and minimized the damage to Israel afterwards,” he said at the time.
In addition to establishing a new position, the IDF has also instituted new doctrinal changes for ground forces, creating new rules of engagement for the way soldiers should operate when entering populated areas in a future operation.
One example are new plans that have been drawn up by the IDF on how to evacuate entire Palestinian villages and refugee camps from areas of conflict in the event of a future Israeli incursion into Gaza.
The new plans draw on some of the experiences from Cast Lead, and were drawn up as part of an IDF attempt to prevent large-scale damage to civilian infrastructure in a future operation.