Save the IDF
There are all kinds of ways to investigate the Lebanon war and learn its lessons, but it seems the main lesson will not be learned in the foreseeable future.
There are all kinds of ways to investigate the Lebanon war and learn its lessons, but it seems the main lesson will not be learned in the foreseeable future. The army is not to blame for the fact that it has been dealing with ongoing security in the occupied territories for almost 40 years now - or, more precisely, since 1987, when the Palestinians began a violent revolt against the occupation. The "Israel Policing Forces" are engaged mainly in defending Israel against terror perpetrated by an occupied population. They have neither the resources nor the time to prepare for a real war.
It is possible to continue lamenting that there is no one to talk to, but there has as yet been no attempt to talk with the new Palestinian government. Those who refuse to speak with an elected government, and instead arrest its ministers, must take into account the price that the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli society will pay for this. Both the regular army and the reserve forces have essentially been serving for years as subcontractors of the Shin Bet security service and substitutes for the police. The army mans checkpoints, arrests wanted men, accompanies the Shin Bet during arrests and carries out assassinations - a host of activities that prevent it from training for large-scale operational activity against a professional and well-entrenched enemy, and that deals a severe blow to the IDF's ladder of moral values.
Most of the commanders who faced off with Hezbollah recently gained their fighting experience in the territories, and they think in terms suitable to such fighting. For example, the army got used to obtaining precise targets from the intelligence services and then going to a specific place to capture someone. Therefore, it was disappointed by the information that intelligence supplied during the war in Lebanon. This disappointment stemmed from the exaggerated expectations to which soldiers have grown accustomed in the territories, which are a controlled and accessible intelligence target.
The main danger of the unsuccessful war with Hezbollah is that the wrong conclusions will be drawn from it. The fear is that instead of exploring every possible way to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, instead of urging the international community to help us find a solution to the conflict, the "solutions" will be found in military training, additional force allocations and extended military service and reserve duty, so that everyone will be well trained for every mission.
Instead of removing the yoke of the occupation from the shoulders of both the state and the Palestinians, experts are liable to arise who will prepare the army for a wide variety of missions. The desire to give additional funding to the army, as if this were the solution to Israel's security, will encourage the establishment of units dedicated to occupation and policing alongside others that will prepare for war.
However, this thinking needs to be reversed. Israel must recognize the fact that security is obtained through peace agreements, and that a small country is not capable of winning everywhere and every time. It must prepare to face real enemies, not enemies of our own creation. The Kadima-Labor government was established for a single purpose - withdrawing from most of the occupied West Bank. Even if the unilateral solution has lost its charm, an agreement with the Palestinians that will lead to quiet on the most important front has become even more urgent, so that the chief of staff who replaces Dan Halutz will not waste the army's time on policing, but will instead devote it to defending the country.