Ya'alon and Mofaz at Odds Over Calling-up of Reservists

Senior officers in the IDF, including Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon, have strong reservations about Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz's decision to call up reserve infantry battalions to beef up the seam zone between the territories and Israel.

Ya'alon told Mofaz that it would be preferable to avoid calling up reserves and to make do instead with cutting short training sessions and moving troops on other missions into the territories as reinforcements.

The opposition to the reserve call-up was expressed during internal discussions in the army this week, but Ya'alon hinted at it during a lecture on Wednesday to senior officers from the rank of colonel and up who attended a day-long seminar at the Center for the Intelligence Community's Heritage in Glilot. There, he spoke about the need to take economic and social needs into consideration when considering a reserve call-up, "especially when the economy is facing difficulties."

Senior officers also bitterly criticized the political echelon this week, in the aftermath of the Air Force attack on an Islamic Jiahd training base near the Syrian capital in the early hours of Sunday morning. Even before the troops involved in the operation – including support and rescue units which had taken up positions near the target in case a pilot was forced to abandon his plane – had completed their mission, Yedioth Ahronoth ran a front page headline claiming that “Damascus fears an attack on a Jihad training base.”

An unofficial and preliminary investigation cleared the few military men who knew of the attack in advance, leading senior officers to the conclusion that the political echelons – either Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz – were responsible for divulging information.

Sharon’s bureau, accused by the military in private meetings of divulging sensitive operational information and endangering IDF troops, bore the brunt of the criticism from the military. The officers said the leaks were meant to balance out the headlines about the deadly bombing in Haifa's Maxim restaurant the previous day. Ya'alon, who was only told about the premature publication after the operation was finalized and over, refused to comment on the affair.

But the tension between the army's command and the political echelon has gone further than those two issues in the last few weeks. There is tension between Ya'alon and Mofaz because of the minister's decision to downplay the public profile of the IDF Planning Branch, headed by Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, and instead to highlight the role of Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, who recently moved from the army to the Defense Ministry, directly under Mofaz.

Describing the public as the "sovereign," he said "domestic legitimacy" must be taken into account when deciding on military operations, including pinpoint prevention operations. The IDF, Ya'alon hinted, takes that into account more than the government, which hands down the instructions that lead to the operations.

The army, said Ya'alon, conducts "dynamic assessments" asking itself difficult questions, but nothing similar happens in the political system. The process of learning from each operation, which takes place in the army, should also take place at the political level, he said, even though it is the political echelon and not the army that is responsible for the overall national security outlook.