IDF can't keep up West Bank operation due to logistics shortage - comptroller

Israeli State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman finds logistical support lacking for IDF troops and reservists.

 IDF soldiers work to arrest Palestinians as part of Operation Break the Wave (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF soldiers work to arrest Palestinians as part of Operation Break the Wave
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

The IDF cannot continue a long-term military operation in the West Bank due to logistical support deficiencies, State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman has found in a new scathing report released on Sunday.

"For the past few weeks, the IDF has been carrying out important combat operations in the West Bank,” Englman wrote, adding that the assumption is that Operation Break the Wave will turn into a “rolling operation that may last a long time.”

But “the IDF is not sufficiently prepared logistically, for the continuation of the fighting [in the West Bank],” he said, following the snap visits to bases there.

Since April, the IDF has reinforced troops in the West Bank with over a dozen battalions and has sent reserve forces to the area and along the Seam Line in an attempt to thwart terror attacks by Palestinians. 

IDF bases need improved living conditions, food, medical aid

Englman conducted surprise visits to the Kfir Brigade training base in the Jordan Valley as well as the Yakir outpost in the West Bank as part of an audit of the living conditions of draft and reserve soldiers and found logistical support issues that require immediate handling by the military such as the living conditions, medical treatment and food.

During the visit to the Kfir training base where hundreds of troops serve, he spoke with commanders as well as troops and reservists who shared their concerns regarding the infrastructure at the bases, such as a lack of shaded areas and malfunctioning air conditions in the sleeping areas.

IDF’s Kfir brigade holds large-scale drill preparing for war on northern front (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)IDF’s Kfir brigade holds large-scale drill preparing for war on northern front (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

“It is not possible to accept a reality where in a heat of over 40 degrees [centigrade] in the Jordan Valley, troops will not have basic drinking water that is not boiling, and will have to make do with ineffective air conditioners, some of which are not repaired due to a lack of budget,” he said.

“It is not possible to accept a reality in which in a heat of over 40 degrees in the Jordan Valley, troops will not have basic drinking water that is not boiling, and will have to make do with ineffective air conditioners, some of which are not repaired due to a lack of budget.”

Israeli State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman

Englman also found that troops get a ration of one meat portion per day, an “insufficient quantity” that “as a result, they do not receive the amount of food needed in order to be in shape and face the physical challenges of their training.”

At the Kfir base, Engleman his team found that there were no facilities for cold drinking water, leading troops to buy cold drinks from vending machines or deal with drinking hot water from the taps or to carry a cooler with ice from the kitchen to training areas.

In terms of medical care, troops can sometimes wait weeks before they see a doctor or a dentist and sometimes “many months” before seeing a specialist after receiving a referral from their primary physician.

“The reality of combat troops not seeing a doctor for months is unacceptable,” he said, stressing that “those enlisting in combat units should know that the State of Israel stands behind them.”

FOLLOWING CONVERSATIONS with commanders and reservists at the Yakir outpost, Engleman and his team found that the battalion lacks equipment including combat means and that there is a “significant” lack of vehicles as many don’t work. 

The team also found that many of the small-arms malfunction and that the armory needs to be improved, especially the management of its records.

Due to the reinforcement of draft and reserve battalions as part of Operation Break the Wave, the team saw that kitchen at the Yakir outpost serves two reserve battalions instead of one. 

“This situation creates a heavy load on the kitchen and affects the ability to provide the best service to troops,” he wrote. “There is no reason for the reservists not to receive food as required in the first week of their deployment in the shadow of the number of operational forces.”

Speaking with the battalion commander, he learned that the battalion is intended to operate in the northern part of the country while they are training in a completely different area. According to the report, the battalion commander “is afraid that the training of the battalion will not be sufficient for a future war in the North.”

The reservists also raised the concern that although most of them served in the Golani reconnaissance unit, whose training is aimed for the North, they are currently operating in the West Bank and are afraid that they will not be fit for war against Hezbollah.

According to them, they do not undergo training suitable for emergency operations, and “therefore they fear that in the moment of truth they will not be prepared.”

"The IDF and the Defense Ministry must deal with this critical issue in order to support the reservists and maintain their motivation,” the comptroller wrote. “They protect us - it is our duty to protect them."

FOLLOWING HIS visits, Engleman stressed that ATAL should address the issues surrounding improving logistical support for troops and reservists. 

He recommended that the directorate concentrates on the unsanitary conditions of kitchens in the outposts, including focusing on the issues of protein deficiency in order to maintain the fitness and health of troops.

The state comptroller also recommended that the IDF examine the medical care given to soldiers at the Kfir base and formulate a plan to improve it.  According to the report, the IDF said that living conditions and the infrastructure of the Kfir base are “outdated” and will be fully renovated in 2023.

In response to the report, the IDF noted that the competence and readiness level of troops for combat in all sectors “is high” and that at the two bases that the State Comptroller had visited “the deficiencies that were found do not harm the operational readiness of the combat troops.”

According to the military, “some of the report's findings were dealt with immediately after the visit, and the rest are being dealt with.”

The IDF's food and medical care issues

The IDF’s Technological and Logistics Directorate (known in Hebrew as ATAL) has faced harsh criticism about insufficient and low-quality food and poor access to medical care. 

The directorate said in February said that it was “imperative” that there be a change in the quality and experiences of troops in terms of transportation, food, medicine, equipment and infrastructure. 

According to the military, the issues surrounding transportation, food and medical care were issues that needed to be immediately improved and a budget of NIS 250 million was provided in order to address the problems.

The plan to reform the way that the Israeli military feeds some 200,000 soldiers came after sharp rebukes about the experiences of soldiers who draft into the army, with troops uploading pictures of animals in kitchens, moldy salads and small portions.

In addition to numerous media reports, parents complained that their children are not being adequately fed during their time in uniform. Even the chief of staff has said he was greatly disturbed by the food provided to troops.

As part of the program, the IDF said that it would improve the accessibility to medical care for troops West Bank and by 2023 would install remote medical specialist complexes for troops for telemedicine to speak to a specialist anywhere in the country as well as a dedicated shuttle for troops who need to get to clinics.