The Israeli army's ombudsman, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick, has written a new report harshly criticizing the army’s readiness for war. Brick’s position completely contradicts a report issued at the beginning of September by Israeli army Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, which stated that the Israel Defense Forces are at a high level of readiness for war.
Brick sent his detailed dossier last week to Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman as well as to Eisenkot, to members of the IDF General Staff and members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He also called for the appointment of an external commission of inquiry headed by a retired Supreme Court justice to examine the IDF’s state of preparedness.
Brick went public with his criticism of the IDF’s preparedness for war in June, when he presented the ombudsman’s annual report at a press conference. The report did not include a direct reference to the state of readiness, but Brick hinted that his criticism related to training, to training exercises and the state of the weaponry used by the ground forces. Since then, he has issued two detailed letters to Defense Minister Lieberman, to the generals and to the Knesset committee, in which he focused mainly on the IDF’s manpower policies, describing a serious crisis that he said could have implications relating to the capabilities of the entire IDF — particularly the ground forces — to fight a war. Brick's latest report is the third on the issue.
Brick’s report has drawn harsh responses from the top IDF brass, which rejected most of his allegations. On two separate visits to the Knesset, Chief of Staff Eisenkot has said that the IDF is ready for war. Ten days ago, he sent a detailed letter to the security cabinet and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in which — in a rare move — he committed that the military is in a high state of readiness and preparedness for war. Eisenkot’s document includes a long list of statements on the readiness for the entire IDF, along with comments on all military branches and directorates. Each section is signed by the general in charge of the sector.
Eisenkot wrote in his letter that the military is at a high state of preparedness for war when it comes to any threat or scenario. “As the person who is responsible for the readiness to go to war, I state that the IDF is prepared and ready for every mission it is called upon [to carry out], an army with intelligence and aerial superiority, ground capabilities and rich operational experience that meets the test every day in every realm of war.”
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At the same time, Eisenkot said: “The army’s preparedness will always be lacking. There are gaps and they exist along with risk management and priorities. We commanders have the obligation to adapt the processes of building the forces and preserving the IDF’s quality and superiority in the present and to take advantage of the window of opportunity to adapt the IDF to the challenges of the future.”
Brick’s newest dossier was classified as “secret” and people who are familiar with its contents have refused to discuss it with Haaretz. It is known, however, that it is more than 200 pages long and includes long quotes from conversations that Brick held with officers, including noncommissioned officers, within the ground forces, who describe serious deficiencies in the level of training and the handling of military equipment.
In developing his findings, Brick drew on the reports of the comptrollers of the defense establishment and the IDF. Last year, the comptroller of the defense establishment conducted an examination of Armored Corps units and exposed severe deficiencies in their readiness for war. The IDF claimed in response that the problems that had been uncovered had since been rectified. At the same time, members of the General Staff attacked the manner in which Brick reached his conclusions, saying he is not authorized to examine the question of readiness and that his statements are based on superficial impressions only, instead of a systematic gathering of information and formal analysis.
The call to establish an external investigative commission is unprecedented. Brick is scheduled to complete his 10-year tenure as ombudsman at the beginning of January. His demand for an inquiry reflects two main problems: deep concern over the state of the ground forces and a growing lack of trust in the IDF’s ability to investigate itself and correct what needs to be rectified. In addition, from the moment that the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee was brought into the picture, it was clear that Brick’s claims would have political implications.
The members of the security cabinet, who are responsible of the IDF’s preparedness for war and its functioning during a war, have begun to hear about Brick’s new document from the members of their political parties who sit on the Knesset committee and will certainly be required to investigate the question in depth. It appears that, given these circumstances, Defense Minister Lieberman, who is the minister in charge of both Brick and the entire IDF, will soon have to weigh in on the disagreement between Brick and Eisenkot — after remaining silent on the issue up to now.
Once the matter was reported in Haaretz, Knesset member Moti Yogev (Habayit Hayehudi) asked Avi Dichter (Likud), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, to urgently convene the panel to discuss Brick’s findings.
“It is our responsibility for the IDF’s readiness, for the defense of our very existence,” wrote Yogev in his request. “This is a harsh report that details the problems stemming from massive cuts of thousands of officers and noncommissioned officers in recent years, whose shortcomings are felt in dealing with routine [operations] — and will be felt even more so during times of emergency … It is our responsibility to examine the real situation in depth and act according to the findings to reduce the deficiencies and increase the IDF’s preparedness to handle any threat and to overcome it, for the sake of Israel’s security,” wrote Yogev.