Israeli Defense Minister Backs Army Chief: IDF at Highest State of Readiness in Years

Avigdor Lieberman agrees that army ombudsman was incorrect in his report about the IDF's current preparedness for war, but adds that it did provide other valuable information

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, left, with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman during a tour of the Gaza Strip border, May 16, 2018.
Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman rejected claims by the Israel Defense Forces ombudsman that the army is not properly prepared for war. In response to a recent report drawn up by Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick, Lieberman told the Ynet news website on Tuesday that the IDF is at its highest state of readiness since 1967.

“There are a lot of important comments in Brick’s report, but he is very much mistaken on this subject,” Lieberman said. “As someone who knows the [military] well, we are at the peak of preparedness [of any time] since the Six-Day War.”

In a report publicized last month, Brick was highly critical of the state of the IDF's ground forces, and also took the army to task for its personnel policies. He called for the creation of an external investigative panel made up of non-military officials to study the current situation.

Since Brick’s criticism of the army first surfaced in June, when he presented his annual report at a news conference, Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot has rejected all of the ombudsman's allegations. In a particularly unusual step, after he and others received Brick's dossier early last month, Eisenkot sent a detailed report to the security cabinet in which he insisted that the army was at a high state of preparedness for war.

Last week, Eisenkot ordered the top brass to conduct an internal investigation of the subject, under the direction of the IDF comptroller, Brig. Gen. (res.) Ilan Harari.

Voicing general support for the chief of staff, Lieberman told Ynet, in reference to the army: “There is no shortage of problems. It’s a huge machine ... One needs to take [Brick’s] comments into serious consideration, but something was missed, despite all of the important comments. I don’t ever ignore problems. In such a large apparatus, there will always be problems. It will never be ideal. When I make a comparison over the years, since 1967 there has never been preparedness at since a high level as there is today. It’s a shame that this entire discussion is being conducted in the media and not in closed settings, such as the [Knesset] Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee or the security cabinet.”

For his part, Eisenkot contends that Brick has neither the authority nor the tools to systematically investigate the matters that he commented on. The chief of staff compared this situation to that of a patient who comes to a hospital for emergency treatment but is denied medical care until he fills out forms, as the patient’s condition worsens.

“By virtue of my position, I am authorized to deal with anyone who is serving in the army and to look after them,” wrote Eisenkot, whether such individuals approach him officially, or in conversations or during visits to army units. “The responsibility to report is a professional and moral obligation imposed on those in every post, and involves mainly reporting to the individual responsible for any act or oversight that could be harmful to our forces.”