The Israeli Army’s Fight to Block Reforms Will Cost the Whole Country

Instead of rehabilitating a bloated army, the defense establishment is busy hurling insults at those who have exposed the truth about the IDF.

Haaretz Editorial
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IDF soldiers on the march (illustrative).Credit: Gil Cohen Magen
Haaretz Editorial

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon refused to attend a meeting convened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the defense budget due to the participation of Major General (res.) Yohanan Locker, who headed the committee that examined the budget. “I do not hold discussions with bureaucrats,” Ya’alon explained. His childish reaction casts a ridiculous light on the aggressive campaign he and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot are waging to preserve the service conditions of career army personnel and IDF pensions. Instead of addressing the difficult situation uncovered by the committee – long-standing mismanagement in the defense establishment, which has lost control of the budget and its manpower – the leaders of the defense establishment are turning the matter into a personal dispute, as if Locker has somehow offended them.

The Locker Report should appall every citizen who cares about national security. It reveals a system being run by the “cost-plus-plus” method, which is oblivious to why its ranks have swelled with unnecessary personnel, and which is completely unconcerned about the financial burden it is imposing on Israel’s civilian economy. The committee did not touch on operational matters, but the consequences of the faulty management were plain to see throughout last summer’s war in Gaza. The IDF was unable to defeat Hamas’ rockets and its small guerilla army even after 50 days of combat — this, despite enjoying a total advantage in the air and employing tremendous firepower.

It’s become a wasteful army that’s busy upgrading the pension plans for its officers and NCOs, and having trouble providing the citizenry with proper security. This is the truth, and it mustn’t be whitewashed over with clichés like “the people’s army” and “love of the homeland.”

The solution proposed by Locker – to build a more professional and less “popular” army, and to compensate its members according to their contributions, while trimming excessive benefits, will require the rejection of an obsolete tradition, and the introduction of deep reforms in the IDF, and later in the civilian security, intelligence and nuclear organizations as well.

Hurling baseless insults at Locker won’t solve the problems he exposed, and it won’t boost the IDF’s capacity to contend with Israel’s enemies. Instead of crowing over the expected burial of the report, Ya’alon and Eizenkot should put all their energies into the vital task of rehabilitating the IDF and building it anew as a modern, efficient and effective organization. And if they refuse, Netanyahu should force the change on them. Their insistence on perpetuating the status quo, under cover of a few superficial “reforms,” will only make it harder for the IDF in the next round of fighting.