Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Amos Harel and Gideon Alon, "Olmert to Knesset defense panel: We'd use more force in war with Syria," Ha'aretz, September 4, 2006.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that Israel would use more force in any war with Syria than it did in the recent conflict in Lebanon.

"If we have go to war with Syria, we will do away the limitations on the use of force we placed upon ourselves in Lebanon," Olmert said during his first appearance before the panel since the end of the 34-day conflict with Hezbollah.

He said he would be happy to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, but said he doubted that the conditions existed to hold negotiations with Syria.

The terrorists carrying out attacks on Israel, Olmert said, were coming through Damascus. He added that Israel sent Syria a message that its current behavior "did not indicate a partner for negotiations."

Olmert also said that his plan for a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank, the heart of his election platform in March, was no longer relevant in the wake of the Lebanon war.

"What I saw as right several months ago has changed now," he said. "The order of priorities of the government has changed since the war in Lebanon."

The Kensset committee is examining the events of the war, starting with the pullout of the Israel Defense Forces from southern Lebanon in May 2000.

"For some years now, the IDF - especially the ground forces - has not excelled in self-examination," said one. "Whitewashing is a disease, and it is expected to get worse now that so much lies in the balance and so many officers have something to lose if the full extent of the failure becomes apparent."

The committee will discuss the decisions of the Knesset and different governments since 2000 vis-a-vis the defense budget, the lessons of the pullout and policies regarding Hezbollah's arming since the IDF left southern Lebanon.

The committee will also discuss the timing of the ground offensive and the decision by Chief of Staff Dan Halutz to appoint his deputy, Major General Moshe Kaplinsky, as his representative at the Northern Command midway through the conflict.

Among the others expected to be invited to answer questions are Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Halutz, the heads of the Mossad, Shin Bet and Military Intelligence, Kaplinsky, GOC Northern Command Udi Adam, and other relevant figures.

Meanwhile, each subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee will probe areas pertaining to its mandate. The following is a breakdown of what each of the subcommittees will investigate:


This subcommittee is headed by MK Tzachi Hanegbi, who also chairs the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. It will investigate aspects of intelligence relevant to Hezbollah's rocket arsenal and intelligence assessments regarding Israel's ability to deal with the missile threat.

Also, it will probe the roles of Iran and Syria in funding and arming Hezbollah since 2000, including effective plans for preventing the transfer of arms during the fighting. Different subjects the subcommittee will examine include the following: the intelligence overview presented to the government prior to the decision to embark on war; data on Hezbollah's fortifications; the whereabouts of Hezbollah's leadership and their targetting; the use of special forces in preparing for war and during the fighting and the intelligence relating to the abducted soldiers.

State of Alert and Routine Security:

This subcommittee will concentrate on the status of the supply depots before and during the war. It will also examine the "Joint Arms" exercise of June 2006, which was supposed to prepare for a scenario similar to the July 12 raid, and the lessons learned or ignored.

Order of Battle and Defense Doctrine: This subcommittee will probe the doctrine used by the ground, naval and air forces, the role that the war on terror occupied in this doctrine (with a special focus on Hezbollah) and an analysis of the deliberations over procuring counters to ballistic threats.

IDF Manpower:

This subcommittee will discuss the rate and extent of reservist mobilization during the war, the gap in training of standing army units and reservists, as well as the logistical failures that emerged during the fighting.

External Relations and Public Relations:

This subcommittee will deal with Israel's public relations campaign abroad during the war, the extent to which it was effective during the war in countering Hezbollah's propaganda and the diplomatic backlash of civilian casualties at Kafr Qana.

Chief of Staff convenes commanders amid fears of 'whitewash'

Halutz was also to meet Monday with brigade and battalion commanders who participated in the war, as officers of various ranks have severely criticized the army's internal probe into the failures of the war in recent days, with some going so far as to describe the probe as a "whitewash."

The mood among many of the brigade and battalion commanders is very tense, and they are expected to raise serious criticisms of the conduct of the war. Halutz has held several similar meetings over the past two weeks, mostly with reserve officers. On Tuesday, he will meet with dozens of reserve major generals and brigadier generals.

The internal IDF probe, which is being headed by Deputy Chief of Staff Moshe
Kaplinsky, involves approximately 50 teams comprising hundreds of officers.

Career army officers with the rank of major general are in charge of 10 teams dealing with central issues such as the use of reservists and the logistical difficulties experienced by units involved in the fighting. Some of the teams began their work last week.

But senior officers told Haaretz on Sunday that they believe the internal probe will prove to be unreliable.

"For some years now, the IDF - especially the ground forces - has not excelled in self-examination," said one. "Whitewashing is a disease, and it is expected to get worse now that so much lies in the balance and so many officers have something to lose if the full extent of the failure becomes apparent."

Even in the case of units that experienced very serious problems during the fighting, the common practice in internal IDF probes is for all units to examine themselves. Thus, for example, Division 91 will conduct its own investigation into the abduction of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser during a Hezbollah raid on July 12 - the event that sparked the outbreak of war. Similarly, Division 162 will investigate the fighting on the central front during the last two days of the war, between Wadi Salouki and the village of Ghanduriye.

Under these circumstances, say the critics, it is difficult to expect any substantive findings, other than detailed comments regarding the lower ranks.

"When Chief of Staff Dan Halutz says in public that we won on points, he is already setting the tone of the internal probe for the rest of the army," said one critic. "The officers under him get the hint."

Officers were also critical of the fact that the army included few retired senior officers with experience in previous wars in the probe.

Meanwhile, criticisms by reserve officers gathered steam Sunday with the publication of a document detailing failures in the war that was prepared by reserve officers who served in command headquarters during the fighting. Topping the list were intelligence shortcomings.

According to the document, which was exposed by Channel 2 television Sunday night, intelligence on Hezbollah's positions and order of battle was adequate, but this information never reached units in the field. As a result, many units were surprised by Hezbollah's defensive preparations, particularly in rural areas with thick underbrush.

Another intelligence problem was outdated aerial photographs, particularly of villages where construction had been rampant in recent years.Recommend this Post

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