Analysis

Netanyahu Meets Israeli Army Watchdog as Top Military Brass Discuss His Criticism

Netanyahu invited Brik to discuss the criticism he levelled against the IDF’s ground forces level of readiness for war ■ At the same time the IDF’s General Staff met on the same issue

IDF Ombudsman Yitzhak Brik at the Knesset, December 12, 2018.

Prime Minister, and Defense Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu met on Monday with the IDF Ombudsman, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brik in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu invited Brik for a meeting to discuss the criticism Brik has levelled against the IDF’s ground forces level of readiness for war. Brik is finishing his 10 years as ombudsman in two weeks.

The meeting with Brik was meant to allow Netanyahu to hear and learn about Brik’s criticism, most of which has been rejected by the IDF’s senior brass. In a series of letters and reports, whose main points were first published in Haaretz, Brik harshly criticized the state of the ground forces, and in particular the state of reserve units. Brik described what he called a severe manpower crisis in the IDF and provided a long list of problems in the military’s organizational culture.

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Last week, the subcommittee on military preparedness of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, chaired by MK Omer Bar-Lev (Zionist Union), submitted its report on the matter. The report disputed most of Brik’s claims and praised the IDF for the steps it has taken to improve readiness in recent years, following Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014.

So far, the political leadership has spoken out very rarely on the dispute between Brik and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot. Former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who resigned in mid-November, said before his resignation that the IDF is at its highest level of readiness since 1967. But after leaving the Defense Ministry, Lieberman has made comments that seem to reflect that he agrees in part with Brik’s criticism. Most members of the security cabinet have avoided becoming involved in the dispute – as has Netanyahu.

At the same time Netanyahu and Brik were meeting in Jerusalem, the IDF’s General Staff met on the same issue.

Eisenkot received two reports at the General Staff meeting. One was submitted by IDF Comptroller Brig. Gen. (res.) Ilan Harari, who examined the state of readiness of various divisions.

The second was submitted by a committee headed by two retired IDF major generals, Doron Almog and Avi Mizrahi, which dealt with the situation of the ground forces, and they presented to Eisenkot recommendations and conclusions on some of the issues raised by Brik.

The IDF plans to release both reports on Tuesday. Bar-Lev also participated in the General Staff meeting.

It can be assumed that the conclusions of the two internal IDF reports fall somewhere in the middle between Brik’s claims and the results of the Bar-Lev subcommittee report. They highlight problems and faults, but do not adopt Brik’s firm and harsh line of criticism, which warns of the possibility of a disaster occurring during Israel’s next war.