Liberman: IDF Chief Admits Army Not Ready

YERUSHALAYIM -
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Former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks at a conference in Netanya, Thursday. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

Former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman took sides on Thursday with the military ombudsman that the IDF is unready for war, The Times of Israel reported.

This also happens to be the opinion of IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Eisenkot, according to Liberman, who said he had personally heard the latter admitting that “90 to 95 percent” of criticism by the military ombudsman was correct.

In a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Liberman in early October, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick charged that the current situation in the IDF was “worse than it was at the time of the Yom Kippur War” in 1973, when Israel was caught off-guard by a surprise attack by Egypt and Syria.

Publicly, the army has sought to deflect Brick’s criticisms as “improper and off-base” and maintained that the military was perfectly ready for any and all developments, and that reserve officer Brick was now an outsider, not fully informed of the status of military preparedness.

On Wednesday, Brick sent a letter to members of the Knesset Foreign and Defense Committee alleging the IDF was not being candid about manpower shortfalls and citing problems with the storage and maintenance of tanks and armored personnel carriers.

Liberman also hit at the Finance Ministry for behaving “as if we’re at peace” by not adjusting the defense budget upward for inflation, arguing that the budget was inadequate to enable the army to cope with the threats on multiple fronts.

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Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at an IDF General Staff meeting on Thursday. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was settling into Liberman’s old seat at the defense ministry, on Thursday naming Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir as the next deputy chief of staff of the IDF.

“Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today approved the recommendation of the incoming Chief of Staff Gen. Aviv Kochavi and appointed Gen. Eyal Zamir as the deputy chief of staff of the IDF,” the army said in a statement.

Kochavi himself had been formally recommended for the top post by Liberman prior to his resignation.

Zamir was said to have been Netanyahu’s personal choice for IDF chief.

Zamir served until recently as head of the Southern Command, overseeing the construction of a massive underground barrier around the Gaza Strip to thwart terror groups’ border-crossing attack tunnels. Before that, he served as military secretary to Netanyahu.

The cabinet is expected to approve Kochavi’s nomination next Sunday, and he will be taking over from the current IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Eisenkot in early 2019.

Earlier Thursday, in his first meeting with the IDF’s General Staff since taking over from Liberman, Netanyahu told the generals, “We have a shared mission to safeguard the security of Israel on all fronts. On the first front, Gaza, we are ready to act and do whatever it takes to protect the residents of the Gaza border communities and the south.”