Ex-IDF chief Kohavi says probe into Oct. 7 failures should scrutinize his decisions

Former top general, whose term ended a year ago, takes responsibility for actions he took, says ‘I constantly ask myself what we could have done differently’

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Former IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohavi speaks during a ceremony at the memorial hall for fallen soldiers on Mount Herzl, Jerusalem on January 15, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Former IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohavi speaks during a ceremony at the memorial hall for fallen soldiers on Mount Herzl, Jerusalem on January 15, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Former IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohavi acknowledged Monday that his actions as the military’s top general will have to be scrutinized as part of investigations into the failures that enabled Hamas’s October 7 bypassing of Israel’s high-tech border barrier and the ensuing mass onslaught.

Making his first public remarks since the beginning of the war, Kohavi said during a memorial event: “I am responsible for the decisions and actions made in the IDF during my time as chief of staff, and I constantly ask myself what we could have done differently.

“On October 7, the [border] wall was completely breached, exposing cruelty the mind cannot comprehend. And hate that will not disappear in another generation,” Kohavi said during a memorial event for the “Lamed Hey,” a convoy of 35 Hagana soldiers who were ambushed and killed during the War of Independence in 1948.

“October 7 is both a shocking and a defining event, which requires a deep understanding and incisive investigations. The incident will have to be examined from all angles, in all areas, and with a multi-year perspective — including, of course, the period in which I commanded the IDF,” Kohavi said. Kohavi served four years as chief of staff, from January 2019 to January 2023.

“This is an incident that requires a learning process and professional and thorough investigations, which will have to take into account a broad and comprehensive view, looking into facts that are still missing, weighing classified details, and drawing reasoned, sharp and realistic conclusions,” he continued.

Kohavi said Israel will need to “reexamine the perception of war and security, along with peace and agreements.”

“This is not the War of Independence, but we will have to define and resurrect the national goals and their order of priority, and remember that security is the first and necessary condition for our existence here,” he added.

Hamas terrorists near Kibbutz Nir Oz during the massacre on October 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Hassan Eslaiah)

Current IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said earlier this month that he had formed a team of former military officials to probe the army’s operational failures in the lead-up to the October 7 massacres, in which thousands of Hamas-led terrorists burst into southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people and kidnapping over 240.

Former IDF chief of staff Shaul Mofaz, former Military Intelligence Directorate head Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash, former Southern Command leader Sami Turgeman and former Operations Directorate chief Yoav Har-Even will be among the members of the investigatory team.

The team will probe the actions of the IDF on October 7 and the period leading up to the Hamas attack. The probe, which has been criticized by some ministers, is aimed at drawing operational conclusions for the military, and will not look into the policies of the political leadership.

Many details have previously been unveiled of detailed intelligence the Israel Defense Forces had obtained of Hamas attack plans during the weeks, months and years before the October 7 massacres — and which officials largely ignored, believing it to be empty boasting — as well as of senior military officers having ignored or dismissed alarms sounded by lower-ranking soldiers, of the military diverting its attention away from Gaza, and of last-minute indications of an impending attack not being urgently acted upon.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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