The IDF ombudsman issued on Monday a report scathingly critical of what he described as the army’s lack of preparedness for war due to major structural and attitudinal problems.
The ombudsman, Maj. Gen. (res) Yitzchak Brik, pointed out a disturbing disconnect between the frequent public declarations about the IDF’s capabilities and the realities on the ground. The dismal realities were amply documented in this tenth annual assessment, he said.
Brik cited a self-inflicted manpower shortage in which the dismissal of thousands of career soldiers along with the shortening of service terms has depleted the military’s strength.
He said there were “serious consequences” for the shedding of career soldiers under the IDF’s five-year streamlining called the Gideon Plan.
“It is impossible to hold the rope on both ends,” Brick wrote. “On the one hand, the tasks are increasing – and on the other there is extensive cross-cutting of manpower.”
The mandatory military service for men has been cut from 3 years to 32 months, and junior officers have shown reluctance to sign on for additional service.
Manpower was by no means the only issue the ombudsman focused on. He noted an uptick in soldiers’ complaints about their treatment at the hands of officers, including allegedly abusive and racist behavior.
Beyond the personal grievance, the “abusive, contemptuous, and racist attitude of commanders, including non-junior commanders, towards their subordinates” has led to a drop in the number of minority applicants to command courses “due to inadequate treatment of issues related to their service,” Brik asserted.
The deficiencies extended to such basic matters of military discipline as the upkeep of equipment in many units. Brik said he visited a base where a civilian contractor was hired to clean the guns for the soldiers after a drill.
“There is a lack of regular military monitoring of military processes, disciplinary problems and a failure to fulfil orders. Take as an example the fact that two billion shekels were invested in emergency storage units after the Second Lebanon War, but the project was abandoned,” Brik told Ynet.
“There are documents that back up my claims and not only direct statements from senior officers and officers in the field,” he explained.
“If I read you these reports, you would fall over,” Brik said of the report whose content is not made available to the public.
Asked about the level of the IDF’s readiness for a conflict in the near future in the south, Brik replied: “I prefer not to say.”
The report also criticized the unregulated use of smartphones and social networks, saying the “use of mobile phones in many military units undermines the command and leadership of commanders.” Some commanders, he wrote, have “abandoned direct dialogue with their subordinates,” altogether, sending text messages even when the subordinates are nearby.
The IDF denied that the shortening of service has been harmful, saying positions with the rank of captain and major in combat units are fully staffed and that they project a record number of officers in the technological roles by the end of this year.
“In accordance with the decisions of the multi-year Gideon plan, the IDF currently has about 40,000 career soldiers. This scope is designed and adapted to the operational needs and to the implementation of the IDF’s tasks, and ensures the construction of a high-quality command reserve, which leads to increased efficiency in the IDF’s work processes,” read the response by the military.
As for treatment of minorities, the IDF said it “works to advance the issue on a regular basis” as it “sees great importance in the integration of minorities into its ranks,” especially as officers.