IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz has acknowledged for the first time that there were shortcomings in the military's performance during the recent Lebanon war, media reported on Thursday. Criticism of the military's preparedness and tactics swelled as the monthlong fighting dragged on, then ended without a clearcut victory for Israel. Questions about the wisdom of 11th-hour battles and reports of food and water shortages have fueled demands for a state inquiry into the war's conduct and the resignation of Israel's wartime leaders.
Analysis: IDF can't brush off criticism
In a letter to Israeli fighters, Halutz wrote that "alongside the achievements, the fighting uncovered shortcomings in various areas _ logistical, operational and command. We are committed to a thorough, honest, rapid and complete investigation of all the shortcomings and successes."
On Wednesday chief reserve officer Brig.-Gen. Danny Van-Buren told The Jerusalem Post that the military would not run away from criticism and would work to fix the flaws and failures.
"We will not cover up our mistakes and will do our best to fix them," he said during an interview at his office in Tel Aviv. "We need to train reservists more and ensure that they have better equipment, or at least the same as regular soldiers who are performing the same tasks and missions have."
Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz has appointed Kaplinsky to coordinate a number of ongoing internal military probes into some of the failures and flaws during the war, from the lack of clarity in orders sent to battalions from the Northern Command to the failure in supplying water and food to combat soldiers.
But Van-Buren also said that as a result of the war, he said, reservists would be called up for more reserve duty this year than in the past. Due to the situation in the North, he said, reservists would have to replace regular infantry brigades running routine security operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"We hope that by the end of 2007 the system will balance itself out," he said, "and the number of days will go back to normal."
Despite the war, Van-Buren has not given up on implementing the new reform to the reserve service, according to which reservists will only be called up for 14 days over three years, and only for training - not to man settlement watchtowers, the most common reserve service in recent years.
The second war in Lebanon, he said, was definitely a reservists' war. It began with the kidnapping of two reservists - Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev - in a cross-border Hizbullah attack and continued with the mass callup of reservists for combat. Forty-six reservists were killed during the 34 days of fighting.
Now, however, some of the reservists who showed up full of enthusiasm have turned on the IDF, with some calling for the resignation of the entire leadership from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Halutz.
Van-Buren said he knew what these reservists were going through. He, too, was a reservist for 18 years, starting as a young platoon leader and becoming a company, battalion and then an armored brigade commander. Last year, he left his law firm and became the chief reserve officer.
"I am in favor of criticism, and we need to look at it as constructive," he said. "There are some people who are exaggerating in their criticism, but there are some who are right, and we will need to invest more in building up the force, in logistics, training and equipment."
Responding to reports about reservists who collected money abroad to purchase flak jackets, Van-Buren said: "This is a reality we cannot accept and we need to ensure that our soldiers have everything they need."
The protest camp set up outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, he said, was proof of how reservists, as opposed to other citizens, actually care about the state. In the end, he said, the reservists would show up for the next war in large numbers, just like they did last month. There was an unwritten agreement, he said, between the IDF and Israelis according to which people would be willing to be called up for reserve duty as long as the army provided them with "a clear mission and suitable equipment."
"As long as we investigate ourselves and do not cover up our mistakes, they will continue to come serve in the reserves," he said. "There is no alternative. We don't have another country, and there isn't anyone else here to do the job but them."