Break-in at Israeli Army Base a Major Embarrassment

If the IDF can't protect one of its armories, what hope is there for the country's citizens?

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IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.Credit: IDF Spokesman

Somebody fell asleep on Roni Noma’s army base. The report on Friday night was particularly embarrassing: a break-in – another break-in, at least the third in two years – at the armory of the Land Training Center on the Tze’elim base.

Trackers and other forces went after one of the thieves, in an effort to recover the weapons and ammunition – before it reached the gangs whose members are busy killing each other, and the occasional innocent bystander. Yesterday, it became clear that the panic was justified, if exaggerated. This time, only non-weapon military equipment was stolen.

The embarrassment went beyond the repeated failure of the Israel Defense Forces to defend itself – if it can’t do that, how can it defend civilians? – to the timing of the incident, a day after IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz announced Noma’s promotion from brigadier general to major general, and to two half-time assignments: chief of the Command and Staff College, and head of the Depth Corps.

On the plus side, the IDF will save itself the cost of a high-ranking officer. This was accepted practice for years, when the head of the National Defense College, a major general, was also a corps commander. But at this delicate time of establishing the unit and fighting for its place alongside the air, sea and intelligence forces, the Depth Corps deserves a full-time commander.

What’s more, Noma is to be junior to his counterpart at the military college. The propaganda now talks up the importance of the Command and Staff College, but even in 2011, when Gantz broke the 30-year curse of the glass ceiling – during which no officer about the rank of brigadier general was commander of the Command and Staff College – he did not leave Noam Tibon there when he was promoted to major general as commander of the Northern Corps.

In subordinating one major general to another, a problem was created where no problem had existed before. It’s a clumsy solution for a one-off problem. Doron Almog, as head of the IDF’s Doctrine and Training Division – a brigadier general reporting to the commander of the Operations Division – was also appointed corps commander at the level of a major general. That was a one-time double-rank affair.

The claim that from now on the Command and Staff College will receive greater attention will be examined the next time around. Gantz won’t be there to stop the buck.

While Noma is supposed to devote his best efforts to improving the college, he is also tasked with promoting the Depth Corps. His background is impressive: Commander of the Duvdevan special forces unit, the Shaldag Israel Air Force commando unit and the 98th Paratroopers Division, whose current commander, Amir Baram, would be happy for it to be adopted by the Depth Corps.

Noma is close to Gantz, who was his commander in the paratroopers and Shaldag. In order to promote him to major general, the chief of staff passed over his second-in-command in Shaldag, Brig. Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch, who today, with hundreds of reserve-duty days served in the past three years, is the deputy commander of the Depth Corps and a critical component of the corps.

The Depth Corps will suffer, because Hirsch will not stay on as Noma’s second-in-command. Gantz vacillated over whether to appoint Hirsch. The move would have had broad support, including that of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, but Gantz gave in to pressure. That’s typical of his method, which is based on maintaining a balance of unpleasantnesses. This time it would have been more unpleasant for him to have disappointed Noma than Hirsch.

In the luxuriating over the performance of all the various special forces units, the domestic front has been neglected. When these units sneak into the Syrian or Iranian equivalent of Tze’elim, it’s a pretext for issuing a chief of staff’s medal. The Land Training Center’s thieves, who humbly refuse all decorations in favor of more prosaic rewards, show the heroes of deep penetration into enemy territory to be toy soldiers.