IDF 'Played Into Hezbollah's Hands' Says Knesset Report on Lebanon War

The Israel Defense Forces method of fighting during the Second Lebanon War "played into Hezbollah's hands," according to a report on the war written by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

The report blasted the decision to launch a major ground operation only at the tail end of the war, and that the tactics used until then "were afflicted with blindness and reinforced the enemy's logic."

"The lack of an approved, up-to-date plan of attack [in south Lebanon] was a serious failure on the part of Northern Command," it added.

Though most of the report focused on the army rather than the government, it also included some sharp criticisms of the latter. For instance, it said, the policy of restraint toward Hezbollah that successive governments adopted following Israel's pullout from Lebanon in 2000 "reduced the army to paralysis and weakness.

Throughout the years of the containment policy, the cabinet never held a focused discussion on the implications of this policy for our deployment on the northern border."

Stating that a major ground operation was essential to win the war, it blasted both political and military decision-makers for delaying this operation until the war's final days, when it was then cut short by a cease-fire before it could be effective.

"The IDF wasted precious time in putting ground forces into the fight (and in the way it put them in)," the report stated. This attests "to conceptual rigidity and a fundamental failure in reading the map of the ongoing battle."

The repeated delays in launching a major ground operation "eroded and wore out our forces, as well as the home front, and undermined the element of surprise," it added.

The report noted that "locating Katyusha [rockets] from the air was an almost impossible task, nor could they be neutralized solely from the air.

Despite this, no comprehensive ground campaign was launched until the end of the war. The IDF failed in achieving the main operational goal of the war - suppressing the Katyusha fire."

It also criticized the IDF's decision not to send soldiers into the so-called "nature reserves" - fortified areas where Hezbollah had concentrated its forces.

"An earlier ground operation would probably have significantly reduced the amount of fire at the home front," said committee chair Tzachi Hanegbi (Kadima), summarizing one of the report's main findings. "Hezbollah would have had to choose between retreating northward and a ground battle. In either case, the threat to the home front would have been significantly reduced."

Essentially, the report said, the army's tactics during the war were the same ones it uses in counterterrorism operations in the West Bank and Gaza.

However, these tactics "were unsuited to south Lebanon. The infantry's use of houses as shelters turned them into death traps when confronted with antitank missiles."

The report also found numerous intelligence lapses, such as a lack of intelligence about Hezbollah's positions. Some tactical intelligence was improperly processed, some was out of date, and some was never transferred to the fighting forces, it continued.

The committee began its investigation in September 2006. All 17 of its members signed the report, though about a third added reservations to their signatures - many due to what they termed an insufficient focus on the government's role in the fiasco.

But Hanegbi argued that critiquing the government's performance was the Winograd Committee's job, and that MKs, being politicians, could not credibly critique other politicians.