By Ze'ev Schiff
On December 18, 2005, a letter from the then chief of Military Intelligence,
Major General Aharon Ze'evi Farkash, arrived at the office of then prime
minister Ariel Sharon. In the context of the second Lebanon war, it is an
instructive letter. Farkash was about to conclude his term, and before doing
so, he summarized the annual intelligence assessment. Sharon did not know, of
course, that those were his last days as prime minister, a role that ended
when he suffered a serious stroke.
Two people - then defense minister Shaul Mofaz and Israel Defense Forces Chief
of Staff Dan Halutz - received a copy of Farkash's letter to the prime
minister. Since Farkash was about to retire, Sharon invited him to a private
meeting and told him that he was impressed by the letter, and that he was
planning to hold a special discussion of the matter. But in the end, the
discussion did not take place, because of Sharon's illness.
It is worth citing Farkash's letter to Sharon, focusing in particular on two
sections. The first stated that "the chances of escalation on our northern
border will increase during the course of 2006." The second said: "It is
necessary to plan and be prepared for the possibility of escalation on the
northern border, while strengthening our deterrence power in light of
Hezbollah's intention of kidnapping [Israelis]."
This brief letter summed up MI's assessment for the end of 2005. This
assessment was based on a wealth of material and was reached in discussions
among the most senior intelligence officials, headed by Farkash and his deputy
in charge of the research division, Brigadier General Yossi Kuperwasser. Nor
did it change when a new commander, Major General Amos Yadlin, took over MI.
Kuperwasser was replaced in June 2006 by Brigadier General Yossi Beidatz, who
had accumulated a great deal of experience in confrontations with Hezbollah
The previous defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, also accepted the MI assessment
without hesitation. The question today is whether orders were given and
preparations made in the wake of this assessment, which included serious
warning signs about what could be expected in the North.
The investigating committee headed by Major General (reserves) Doron Almog is
dealing with that question at present. When Almog presented his report to the
chief of staff, Halutz told him that he did not accept the committee's
conclusions regarding the responsibility of three generals. These three were
Udi Adam, who headed the Northern Command during the war and resigned at its
conclusion; Gadi Eisenkot, who was the head of the General Staff's Operations
Division and today serves as head of Northern Command; and the head of MI,
In hindsight, it is clear that before appointing the Almog committee, the
chief of staff was not careful to define its powers precisely. He demanded
that Almog meet again with the three generals to obtain further clarifications
and reconsider his conclusions. Two days ago, Yadlin conducted an internal
examination at MI, prior to his next meeting with the Almog committee. The
importance that he attributes to this additional meeting with the committee is
demonstrated by the invitation he issued recently to Brigadier General
Kuperwasser to come to Israel. Kuperwasser, who has not yet been discharged
from the IDF, is now in Washington as a visiting fellow at the Saban Center
for Middle East Policy, which is part of the Brookings Institution. Brigadier
General Gal Hirsch, who has meanwhile resigned from his job and is in the
process of resigning from the IDF, has not come to terms with what happened to
him. He considered the possibility of turning to the High Court of Justice but
has apparently decided to forgo that option.
The Almog committee has before it the detailed intelligence assessment from
the end of 2005. It clearly cannot ignore the steps that were or were not
taken in the wake of the receipt of this assessment. Investigating the
military sphere is not sufficient. It is important to examine what the
military leadership, including the chief of staff, told the prime minister.
There is also a need to clarify whether the new political leadership was aware
of IDF plans in case of a major conflagration in the north.
If the chief of staff received the MI assessment, the committee must check
what instructions he issued. Were the necessary forces trained? Was an order
given to replenish equipment? Or perhaps nothing happened, and the only
outcome was a surfeit of talk or a virtual coma.
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