Liberman: Army chief largely agrees with ombudsman that IDF not combat-ready
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Liberman: Army chief largely agrees with ombudsman that IDF not combat-ready

Former defense minister tells conference that Hamas ‘stronger than before 2014 Israel-Gaza war’ and that government policy will allow it to be ‘as powerful as Hezbollah’ in a year

Former defense minister Avigdor Liberman right) addressing a conference in Netanya, November 22, 2018. (Screenshot)
Former defense minister Avigdor Liberman right) addressing a conference in Netanya, November 22, 2018. (Screenshot)

Former defense minister Avigdor Liberman on Thursday continued his broadside against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security policy, telling a conference that the government was “buying short-term” quiet in Gaza and harming long-term security, as Hamas gradually bolsters its military power.

Liberman, who resigned from the Defense Ministry a week ago, ostensibly to protest a ceasefire agreement with Gaza’s Hamas after a major flareup in violence,  also waded into an increasingly public squabble over the Israel Defense Forces’ combat readiness.

He said he had personally heard the army’s chief of staff admitting that “90 to 95 percent” of criticism by the military ombudsman was correct.

In public, the army has branded the claims as “improper and off-base” and maintained that the military was in peak combat fitness.

IDF ombudsman Yitzhak Brick poses with a copy of his annual report on May 28, 2017. (Defense Ministry)

In a letter to Netanyahu and Liberman in early October, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick, formally known as the chief complaints officer in the Defense Ministry, 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 famously caught off-guard by a surprise attack by Egypt and Syria.

On Wednesday, Brick sent a letter to members of the Knesset Foreign and Defense Committee warning that army officers were not telling the truth about shortfalls, warning of a manpower crisis and citing problems with the storage and maintenance of tanks and armored personnel carriers.

Liberman told the conference of local politicians he had personally heard the chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot say that he accepted “90 to 95%” of Brick’s claims.

Prime Minister Netanyahu (C) and then-Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (L) speak with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (R) at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv on November 12, 2018. (Amos Ben Gershom)

He also slammed the Finance Ministry for behaving “as if we’re at peace” by not adjusting the defense budget for inflation, saying the budget in no way equipped the army to deal with the threats facing the military.

Hamas today is stronger than before Operation Protective Edge, he said, using the name given by Israel to the last war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip in 2014.

“If we continue to allow Hamas to build up its strength without hindrance, in another year we’ll get another Hezbollah on our southern flank,” Liberman said, referring to the Lebanon-based and Iran-backed terror organization.

“We’re doing something that is not reasonable,” said Liberman. “We’re buying short-term quiet with money and harming our long-term security.”

Liberman and his party Yisrael Beytenu now sit in the opposition, having left  the coalition with a majority of two seats only. He was replaced in the Defense Ministry by Netanyahu.

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