Analysis: 33 years after Agranat, the IDF is left to pick up the pieces again

With lower enlistment numbers, many challenges face the army's future.

golda meir 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
golda meir 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Thirty-three years to the day separated the publication of the Winograd Report from that on Israel's last failed war - the Agranat Report. While both were submitted to the government on January 30, there are many differences between the reports that probed Israel's two most difficult wars - the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and the Second Lebanon War in 2006. In contrast to the Winograd Committee, the Agranat Commission published personal recommendations, which ended the careers of three top generals, including then-chief of General Staff David Elazar and prime minister Golda Meir. There are also many similarities. Words like "misconception" appear extensively in both reports, and both were highly critical of the IDF for not mobilizing the reserves. In 1973, "misconception" meant the IDF's failure to properly forecast the chances of war with Egypt. In 2006, misconception referred to the thinking within the IDF brass, including then-chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, that the IAF could win the war on its own. Both reports focused their criticism on the IDF and not on the political echelon. The Winograd Report released on Wednesday was without a doubt a damning indictment of the IDF and its performance during the monthlong war against Hizbullah in the summer of 2006. The 629 pages of the declassified version are fascinating and dissect each day of the war, the security briefings, the military and political assessments and the various battles. The report goes on to analyze the performance of each IDF branch - the air force, navy, logistics corps - as well as the divisions, brigades and regional commands. The IDF failed during the war and its brass botched its management. However, we didn't need a report to tell us that. What the report exposed was the low moral standard that was allowed to seep deep inside the IDF ranks, damaging some of the fundamental military principles that for years had stood at the core of its strength. Halutz wasn't the only one who made mistakes. So did the generals on the General Staff who became his yes-men instead of taking a stand and pushing for a larger-scale invasion of Lebanon or a mobilization of the reserves. There was also the divide between then-OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Udi Adam and his division commanders and brigade commanders, who stayed in Israel and watched the war on plasma TV screens instead of entering Lebanon alongside their men. Already on Wednesday night after reading part of the report, politicians, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, realized the severity of the criticism of the IDF and began calling on the public to rally around its soldiers and commanders. The support for the army is crucial and is reinforced by the knowledge that the IDF of 2008 is not the same as the version that fought against Hizbullah in 2006. Today, under the command of Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the military is getting back to basics, training like never before and investing unprecedented funds in its ground forces. While the IDF has succeeded in conveying this message to the public, the brass's primary concern is the damage this report will do to the military's already tarnished image. It is highly unlikely that any more top generals will resign in the wake of the report, even though the document, without mentioning names, hinted at their failures and mistakes. With enlistment numbers already dropping and more and more officers refusing to sign on for additional years of service, the top command will face many more challenges in the years to come in addition to rebuilding the IDF as suggested in the Winograd Report.