Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi.

Ofer Shelah, 64, who lost an eye in the first Lebanon War where he served as a company commander in the Paratroopers Division, served as an MK from Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party until on September 2, 2020, he challenged Lapid for the party’s chairmanship. Great liberal democrat that he is, Lapid ousted Shelah, who eventually retired from politics and launched a new career as a pundit, podcaster, and announcer of NBA games.

Shelah’s award-winning 2015 book, The Courage to Win, is critical of the IDF for its lack of intellectual prowess which results in its inability to produce effective plans for the future. The book depicted all the shortcomings of the IDF high command, which led eight years later to the October 7 catastrophe.


On Thursday, Shelah published an opinion piece in Ynet that points to the one effective solution that would bring the IDF up from the quagmire in which it is dipped after eight months of a war that isn’t meeting its goals, despite promises by Israel’s political leaders to fight until the final victory and the destruction of Hamas in Gaza and bring Lebanon back to the stone age.

Titled, “Realize Responsibility, Save the Army,” Shelah’s piece is not political or ideological. He opens by describing the growing dissent and enmity within the IDF senior ranks and the growing gap between the officers and soldiers in the front and the Generals who issue their orders.

Those who pay attention to the voices coming from the IDF’s field ranks to the offices of the generals in the General Staff building in the Kirya compound, were not surprised by a series of news reports and statements of the past few days: the quotes that [Ynet military correspondent] Yossi Yehoshua brought from the charged conversation between General Sa’ar Tzur and the Chief of Staff, in which the General – whom Chief of Staff Halevi informed of the end of his service in the IDF – snapped back, “Am I the one who failed? Those responsible for the failure are still in office.”
There have been reports of harsh statements by generals at the meetings of the General Staff. And there was the demand of Col. Hanoch Dauba, recipient of the Courage Medal who fought in some of the most difficult events of the current war, that the command’s responsibility for the October 7 failures is yet to be fulfilled, stating unambiguously that their failure to fulfill their responsibility harms the army.
The question that arises from these reports is not “How can this be happening?” but rather “How has this not happened until now?” After all, this is a fundamental violation of the ethos of military responsibility, which involves the expectation that people who were personally responsible for the biggest failure in the history of the IDF, the terrible result of which was the occupation of an entire area of ​​land and the abandonment of its inhabitants to murder, rape and kidnapping, are still continuing in their positions.
The only one among them who announced that he would leave, the head of the Military Intelligence Gen. Aharon Haliva, did so on his own accord and conscience. It can be assumed that if Haliva had not fulfilled the responsibility (which others declared with a loud voice, but it’s not clear what they did about it), he would have continued in his position “until the end of the fighting” – an ambiguous date that according to NSA Head Tzachi Hanegbi would be “in seven months,” and according to recent statements will not be before we reach a massive campaign in Lebanon as well.


Shelah stresses that the most important thing is not that individual generals go home, but that they should all be sacked in a single order that would brand them as the disappointing failures that they are. Only then would the IDF be able to revive what Shelah calls its “ethos of responsibility.”

If this ethos is not realized regarding the top commanders, how can it be realized when it comes to field commanders, Shelah is asking, noting that so far this kind of sacking by the IDF higher-ups was used against a Golani company commander who entered a building in Gaza against orders, a security officer who had an affair with an underling, and two officers who were found responsible for the attack that killed seven foreign aid workers.

In Israel, ever since a commission of inquiry absolved the political echelon of responsibility for the 1973 war’s failures, accusing only IDF officers, this kind of approach to responsibility is known as “Blaming the guard at the booth,” while leaving alone all those who really were responsible.

The problem, argues Shelah, goes back to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who should have fired IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi on October 8. The result has been that Halevi, despite his acknowledging responsibility for the catastrophe, continues to run things, and not very well. There have been constant reports on his encounters with soldiers in Gaza who can’t confront him with the kind of questions that would land them in jail but are showing bored disinterest when the chief comes down to visit.


Netanyahu is not very good at sacking people, for a variety of reasons. The last time he tried to sack Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who broke protocol and a clear order from the PM, Netanyahu was faced with what has come down in recent Israeli history as “Gallant’s night,” when thousands flocked to Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv to protest the sacking of an official they despised almost as much as they did Bibi.

Amos Harel, who may be the only remaining Haaretz reporter who still reports the news, wrote on Friday that “The current Chief of Staff is largely a tragic figure. Halevi is an outstanding, honest, and moral officer on whose watch a terrible national disaster occurred, largely under his responsibility. He impressively commanded the IDF’s recovery after the failure, prevented a total system collapse at the General Staff, and quickly came to his senses to lead the ground maneuver in the Gaza Strip. Even now he has an important place in shaping the policy in preparation for a possible flare-up in the north. But his remaining in office for a long time, without marking an early end to the term, clouds the spirits in the army and exposes the Chief of Staff and the entire IDF to blatant political attacks on the outside.

“True, there is a risk that Halevi’s departure, and even more so the resignation of Ronen Bar from the Shin Bet, will allow Netanyahu to influence the appointment of their replacements and the design of the top security leadership (this is bad in Haaretzspeek – DI). And yet, without extensive turnover at the top in the near future, public trust in the IDF will continue to be eroded, and with it the trust of the fighters in the senior command,” Harel concluded.

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