Analysis | Who Bears Responsibility for the October 7th Failure?

Amid unprecedented clashes between Israel’s military and political leadership: an investigation committee will have to find an answer

Analysis | Who Bears Responsibility for the October 7th Failure?

Photo: IDF website

A harmful spirit is undermining the IDF. It's concerning, frightening, and dangerous. Quotes from a cabinet meeting: Minister to the Chief of Staff: “Don't lecture us about responsibility. We weren't the ones who went to sleep on October 6th.” Herzi Halevi stood up angrily and demanded: “Take that back.” The prime minister intervened: “Unacceptable remarks.” After the meeting, the damaging leaks began.

Unprecedented exchanges

Such an exchange between a minister and the chief of staff has never been heard before, marking an unprecedented dialogue between the political and military leadership. However, this time, it is an exchange between military and political levels, both of whom 'went to bed' on October 6th. It is an exchange between partners in responsibility and/or blame.

A state commission of inquiry, once established, will know to define in its final report on the events of October 7th the distribution of responsibility between the two levels of leadership. This is contingent upon the commission's mandate being properly defined and its members performing their duties faithfully, without fear or favoritism, neither to politicians nor those in uniform.

However, the day of the commision's report publication is still far off. In the meantime, a harmful spirit surrounds the IDF, as its soldiers fight in Shuja'iyya and Rafah, and forces train for war on the northern front. A harmful spirit, because both the civilian and military leaderships are in an unprecedented and untenable situation: a bottleneck, a roadblock, an impasse.

The political leadership, the ministers, and the prime minister bear responsibility at least because they were there, and each carries the weight of ministerial responsibility as members of the government. October 7th happened on their watch. They had no idea what was about to happen until 6:29 AM, despite the abundance of reports, intelligence, assessments, and information that flowed to the political level. The political leadership is somewhere between responsible and culpable. The public has clear opinions on the responsibility/culpability of the political leadership. The commission of inquiry will decide.

The military ranks, from its top commander to its last soldier, except for a few righteous few who knew and warned, did not know what was about to happen until 6:29 AM. Is the IDF and its commanders guilty? Responsible? The public understands, and the Commission of Inquiry will determine officially.

Managing the war amid failure

Currently, a war is unfolding, managed by both the civilian and military leaderships who have failed. It could have been understood which Israeli government would have dismissed the Chief of Staff and several officers on the morning of October 8th, telling them then: "You have failed, you are not fit to lead a war, make way for others."

However, that's not how it unfolded, and Major General Halevi and his headquarters continued in their roles, managing and continuing to manage the Gaza war with command skill and resilience, even amidst criticism of certain military maneuvers. In the IDF of 2024, senior commanders are at the forefront leading their troops, with the general staff officers not confined to screens in bunkers but appearing daily on various fronts alongside the soldiers. Unfortunately, the number of senior officers who have fallen in battle in this war is tragically high.

Therefore, the criticism of the Chief of Staff, heated exchanges in cabinet meetings, blunt accusations directed at Major General Halevi, and incendiary materials circulated against him on social networks and certain channels, all stir up unrest. There are side effects that do not contribute positively to the situation: hundreds of politically inclined officers in a certain camp gather to voice criticisms of the leadership. It's permissible in terms of democracy but raises doubts about timing. Officers who served in the reserves yesterday might be called up again the day after tomorrow, and today they gather to express sharp criticisms against the command — this raises questions. Similarly, letters from commanders sent to decision-makers convey similar sentiments.

There's no doubt that exchanges, harsh statements against the Chief of Staff, the Commander of the Southern Command, and the head of the Shin Bet and his organization, are reaching the attention of both the reserve and regular army. Such phenomena are detrimental to morale. It has been reported that commanders of four brigades met with the Prime Minister, expressing concern about erosion among the soldiers. This, too, is reaching the enemy's awareness.

While these words are being written, there is a possibility that a full-scale war against Hezbollah in Lebanon could erupt in full force on the northern front. This is a more severe option than what we experienced on October 7th, as heavy casualties are expected in Israeli territory from Hezbollah's extensive missile arsenal, possibly augmented by missiles from Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, not to mention Iran.

Currently, there are intense efforts from Jerusalem to Washington and Paris to reach a settlement or agreement that will prevent war, under the assumption that all parties—Israel, Hezbollah, Lebanon, the United States, and France—are not interested in war. Where things will lead, we do not yet know.

One thing is certain: if such a war breaks out, involving the IDF and Israeli civilian front, the same Chief of Staff, Major General Herzl Halevi, and his headquarters officers will lead and command the forces in the North. They are the commanders, and currently there are no others in these senior positions. This cadre of officers will be responsible for our fate in the current and future wars.

This is the source of the severity and criticism of both the overt and covert attacks against the chief of staff and the IDF in general. Indeed, those attackers and detractors targeting the military command entrust their sons, grandsons, and sons-in-law who are currently enlisted in Gaza and may be enlisted tomorrow in Lebanon to this same leadership.

After the failure on October 7th, the IDF demonstrated commendable recovery capability, for which the current command is responsible. There were no signs of panic, loss of command integrity, or a wayward path due to a major failure. Units of the IDF, armored divisions, infantry brigades, Air Force squadrons, Navy fleets, Shin Bet operatives, and border guards operated according to pre-prepared plans. The military proved its integration of traditional and innovative warfare. Advancing on foot through Gaza neighborhood streets with rifles in hand, deploying electronic and optical means, drones, medical units, and unmanned robotic devices on land and in the air were all part of this effort.

Therefore, there is no place for campaigns of incitement, insinuations, tweets, or posts against the IDF and its commanders, including personal attacks. Judgment day will come before a state inquiry committee comprising both civilian and military ranks, as is customary in a democratic country. If the government ministers have decided that this top command should continue in its role, they must provide all necessary tools for conducting the war with honor, professionalism, and calmness according to the objectives set by the civilian leadership for the top command. This is the correct order of things.

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