IDF’s Worrisome Shortcomings Revealed in Gaza Operation

The Israeli army relies too much on air force, neglects ground forces, a failure most prominent in handling of Hamas' tunnels.

An Israeli soldier inside a tunnel uncovered in Gaza. Reuters

The ongoing fighting in Gaza has revealed worrisome shortcomings in the Israel Defense Forces in battle readiness and management. While soldiers and commanders in the field are risking and sacrificing their lives to protect the state, the top military brass, led by Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, seem to have gotten used to regarding requests for more funding as the solution to every problem. In preparing for war against a determined and poorly funded enemy like Hamas, whose military commanders have developed an answer to Israel’s aerial superiority and advanced intelligence, the IDF does not use deception and surprise, relying mainly on the air force and neglecting ground forces and special forces.

Particularly prominent is the failure in dealing with the threat of the tunnels. Military Intelligence claims it knew about the underground attack routes that Hamas dug from Gaza to Israel, and warned the government about them. But the army’s job does not end with generating memos and PowerPoint presentations. It must develop a solution and drill it ahead of implementation. This was not done, and the result has been improvisation that extends the fighting and costs the lives of IDF soldiers and Palestinian civilians.

MI failed to uncover the Hamas command center and locate the hiding place of its commanders. Senior IDF officers boasted during the first days of Operation Protective Edge of huge achievements, of striking a mortal blow at Hamas, of signs the enemy was breaking. But Mohammed Deif and his men continue to control their forces, launch rockets at Israel and attack IDF troops even in the fourth week of the fighting.

Absent high-quality intelligence and battle plans, the IDF chose the Operation Cast Lead solution – massive fire at populated zones, with major harm to civilians. The number of Palestinian dead has reached 1,400, most of them civilians. Hundreds of thousands have become refugees; many homes have been destroyed.

Despite the cloak of legal approval with which the army covers itself, it is hard to be persuaded that a real effort has been made to limit harm to the innocent, to maintain the morality of the fighting, and to avoid deepening the hatred of our neighbors, next to whom we will have to live when the weapons fall silent.