The total failure of the army is documented:
Since its soldiers [on the Lebanese border] weren’t being allowed to fire back, and their deterrent capability was necessarily disappearing, the IDF protected them by pulling away physically from the commanding position it had been expected to maintain at the border after May 2000’s unilateral withdrawal. It tried to protect its silenced soldiers, relocating their bases and lookout points to less exposed positions even as Hizbullah dug in at the fence.
One of these abandoned lookout positions, the report documents, had overseen the very scene of the July 12 incursion and kidnapping that sparked the war.
This kidnapping, in that context, was a disaster utterly waiting to happen, and the Winograd Report in these sections is nothing but a chronicle of a tragedy foretold. The IDF positively knew that a kidnapping was being planned. Every alarm bell should have been ringing in the period immediately before that defining event. But many of the warning systems had, literally or figuratively, long since been disconnected. And those who did try to stress the unmistakable imminent dangers were often ignored.
On the night of July 11, Winograd reports, there was clear evidence of Hizbullah activity at the border fence itself in what would next day be the kidnap zone. “Despite this, the orders were given to return to routine procedures.”
The commander of the patrol that had been out immediately before that of Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and their colleagues reported back to Goldwasser himself, on the morning of July 12, that the situation was combustible. You can almost hear the fear in his voice rising from the letters on the page. “We’ve had a really terrifying night,” Winograd quotes him as telling the soon-to-be abducted Goldwasser. “And from what I can tell, there must have been 20 Hizbullah men who came across.”
When the negligence of the army high command met the ignorance and incompetence of the politicians, the stage was set for disaster:
As Winograd puts it in masterful understatement, “Given that the threat of kidnapping was real and ongoing, and Hizbullah had plainly been planning for a kidnapping for months, it would have been expected that the IDF would, as a priority, have prepared a detailed plan for dealing with the situation – a plan that would be updated, approved, drilled and adapted.”
And if there had been such a plan, the report goes on, it should have been presented to the political leaders when they met in the immediate wake of the kidnapping and initial Hizbullah bombardment. And all its alternatives, founding assumptions, pros and cons should have served as the basis for a serious debate as to how to respond.
But – and here the extent of the leadership failure takes on quite dizzying proportions – no such plan was presented. Because there was no such plan. Old plans were being superseded and revised, and while there was still an operational plan of sorts for confronting Hizbullah, Winograd reports, it hadn’t been formally approved by the General Staff, and therefore had not come to serve as the agreed basis for preparing the military apparatus.
It gets worse. Even that plan, however, that undrilled, unapproved plan, did not include provisions for a ground offensive, even though it was known that such an offensive would be the only way to stop the Katyusha rockets that Hizbullah would inevitably fire into northern Israel if attacked…
Again, it gets worse. In its hubris and rank incompetence, the political echelon barely felt the absence of such fundamental planning anyway – because it didn’t bother to ask the basic questions about the nonexistent plan. The degree to which the political echelon sat, paralyzed, in thrall to the IDF and its chief of General Staff is unthinkable. And yet that was the case.
As Winograd sums it up, the prime minister went to war “despite the fact that no military plan was submitted and without asking for one.” His defense minister was no better. And his government, in turn “authorized an immediate military strike that was not thought through.”
The Chief of General Staff, who quite correctly accepted responsibility for his part in the failure and resigned, has been replaced. But what about the politicians?
In the last few days, the very same malaise is repeating itself. The same ministers who blindly and unquestioningly backed their most senior members are doing it again – politics and manipulation as usual, in the immediate aftermath of a report that screams “Emergency.”
The arms are flowing into Gaza, the Syrians are acquiring new weapons systems, the Iranians are speeding towards a nuclear weapon. Every indication is that the same poor governance that left Israel unprepared to fight Hizbullah is being perpetuated in all these areas too. Yet even the foreign minister, who does not emerge badly from this inquiry and who easily understood that the report necessitates an orderly transfer of power into wiser and more capable hands, complacently tells the prime minister that he ought to resign but that, since he’s not going to, she’ll go on working with him anyway.
On Thursday night there was a huge demonstration in Tel Aviv. Police estimated the crowd at 150,000 people. Both the right and left wing were represented, and the message to the government was this: you failed, resign!