Israeli Army Doesn’t Learn From Past Mistakes, Watchdog Says

A State Comptroller report recommends that the IDF's Doctrine and Training Division should determine the procedures for conducting military inquiries.

Olivier Fitoussi

The State Comptroller recommends that the IDF Doctrine and Training Division determine the procedures for conducting military inquiries, according to a report published by his office on Monday.

The report emphasized that it is the duty of the deputy chief of staff “to undertake a broad and system-wide examination of the phenomenon of incidents that recur despite conclusions that were drawn in the past.”

According to current IDF orders, an inquiry must be conducted in the event of an operational incident, a safety-related incident, a failed operation or a particularly successful one, suspicion of behavior that does not conform with IDF ethical standards or that compromises classified information. In 2014, the orders were updated to include a compulsory internal IDF investigation of a soldier’s suicide or suspected suicide, in addition to the standard investigation by the Military Police.

In 2012, the IDF internal comptroller, Ilan Harari, examined the issue of investigations, and discovered numerous deficiencies in the way internal military inquiries were conducted, including failures to report incidents in real time. Yet, in 2014, Harari found that officers were still remiss in running an inquiry.

Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, the chief of staff at the time, wrote that it was not unusual for officers to avoid investigating an incident, or neglect circulating a written investigation, and that “the matter indicates a failure to internalize the organizational culture that [was] ordered to be created through the conduct of investigations in the IDF. There is no learning, no implementation, no strict attention to the level of the inquiry that the instructions demand, and that is expected of IDF officers, regardless of rank.”  

The State Comptroller also cited safety-related incidents: accidents or vehicles overturning in the course of military activity, an armored personnel carrier overturning, “friendly fire” against other IDF units that were mistaken for enemy combatants, and more. In all these incidents, the report noted, the lessons of similar past incidents had not been learned.