"A large segment of conference participants doubt the ability of the current leadership to lead," a major general on the General Staff told Haaretz, during the first day of a two-day conference for senior IDF commanding officers.
The conference, located at the Hatzor air force base in southern Israel, was held to discuss the findings of the in-house investigations into the army's wartime performance.
At the end of the conference Tuesday, Halutz will present the main points of the IDF's plans for 2007, based on lessons learned in the war.
In the first day of the conference Monday, which lasted 12 hours, nearly 600 of the top IDF officers met to discuss the lessons of the war. Unlike previous meetings, those making the presentations were active commanders, not the reservist officers who led the investigation teams.
The only exception was the presentation by former chief of staff Dan Shomron, who led the probe into the General Staff's performance during the war.
"The essence of the probe is to learn, because we would like to improve our operational effectiveness and the IDF's preparedness for the missions and challenges that await us," Halutz said.
The following were mentioned among the lessons of the war: over-reliance on the Israel Air Force as a counter to Hezbollah; late call-up of reservist divisions; inability to solve the threat posed by short-range rockets; poor training and equipping of ground forces, particularly of reservist units; and failures in how decision making was made at the General Staff level.
Sources at the conference told Haaretz that in taking lessons from the war, Halutz is focusing on ways to prepare the IDF for future confrontations. They also stressed that the gathering was not presented as a setting for disagreements, and therefore many of those in attendance chose not to challenge the investigators' findings and the relatively minor measures taken against individual officers.
Halutz censures 2 colonels over wartime Hezbollah attack on ship
Halutz on Monday decided to censure two senior navy colonels for their conduct during the recent war in Lebanon, after an Iranian-made missile struck a navy boat and cost the lives of four soldiers.
Three additional officers from the ship's crew were also censured.
The attack on the INS Hanit occured the night of July 14, when the ship was cruising off the coast of Beirut. A C-802 surface-to-sea missile struck the ship while it was nearly defenseless - because its missile defense systems had not been activated.
The missile struck a crane on the back of the ship. Had it hit a more sensitive part of the vessel, it could have sunk the ship and its crew of more than 80 officers and sailors.
The IDF-appointed inquiry committee, led by senior naval officer Brigadier General (res.) Nir Maor, concluded that the navy failed in not preparing for the case of Hezbollah using Iranian-made missiles against Israeli ships.
The naval command regarded such a scenario as "imaginary and exaggerated," even though it had been twice warned about this possibility. Three years ago, a Military Intelligence officer raised the possibility of such a scenario, and on the morning of July 14, a naval intelligence officer repeated the warning.
In addition, the investigation revealed serious misconduct in the handling of the ship during combat operations.
Based on the IDF probe's findings, Halutz placed overall responsibility for the incident on the naval command, headed by Major General Dudu Ben-Basat. However, he opted not to take any disciplinary steps against the commander of the navy.
Nonetheless, Halutz reprimanded two officers: the head of naval intelligence and the commander of the missile boats. The ship's captain was also reprimanded, and was informed his next posting would be in a staff position. The officers in charge of the engine room and the electronic warfare systems on the ship were also reprimanded.
Two other officers penalized for unauthorized comments to media
Two other naval officers were penalized in the wake of the attack, Halutz announced on Monday, for making unauthorized comments to the media regarding the incident.
The General Staff defense information department has evidence that a colonel in the Navy spoke to the media, but had not been able to prove that the officer disclosed classified information.
The officer stood trial before Major General Moshe Kaplinsky and was convicted. Kaplinsky, who was convinced that no classified information had been revealed, suggested sending the officer off with a warning. Halutz is expected to issue his own ruling on the matter.
In addition, a lieutenent colonel from the Navy was suspended for 30 days. Over the course of his suspension, his lawyer and the military prosecution will hold a hearing to determine what steps will be taken against the officer.
This is the first time an officer has been suspended over conduct during the war in Lebanon.