IDF to probe operational failures in lead-up to Oct. 7, drawing rage from ministers

Right-wing cabinet members rail against team, which is set to include Gaza disengagement era defense minister Mofaz, decry timing of probe with fight against Hamas ongoing

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi gives a statement to the media at an army base in southern Israel, December 26, 2023. (Flash90)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi gives a statement to the media at an army base in southern Israel, December 26, 2023. (Flash90)

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi has formed a team of former military officials to probe the army’s operational failures in the lead-up to Hamas’s October 7 massacre, triggering vocal criticism from right-wing ministers.

The probe is aimed at drawing operational conclusions for the military, and will not look into the policies of the political leadership.

The decision came 90 days after Hamas launched its terror onslaught on southern Israel.

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.

Responding to the backlash from cabinet ministers, Halevi clarified Friday that the investigation will deal with the IDF’s state of preparedness only.

According to Ynet, Halevi told defense officials that he will hold “a professional investigation by external observation to examine the conduct of the army in the war to improve its performance for the future,” and reiterated that it will not investigate any aspect of Israel’s response on a national-political level.

Previously, the IDF had said it would investigate the October 7 attack “when we have the operational possibility.”

The military clarified that it had not yet begun to investigate the failures that led to Hamas’s October 7 shock onslaught, when thousands of terrorists burst into southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people and kidnapping over 240, but confirmed that “the investigation process is being formulated.”

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and IDF chief Herzi Halevi at the start of a security cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv, November 16, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)

In a short statement, the IDF said the General Staff was selecting the heads of various teams to investigate the incidents surrounding the terror onslaught. “When things are finalized, they will be announced to the public,” the IDF statement added.

Under the planned probe, Mofaz will investigate the IDF General Staff, Ze’evi-Farkash will investigate the IDF’s intelligence, Turgeman will investigate the failed defenses on the Gaza border, and Har-Even will investigate the general operational aspects of October 7.

The decision came as a meeting of top ministers Thursday night intended to discuss planning for the administration of Gaza following the war against Hamas ended in a loud and angry dustup between ministers and military brass, as right-wing lawmakers cried foul over the plans for the IDF to probe its own mistakes.

The brawl saw right-wing politicians, including some from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, take aim at Halevi over both the timing of the inquest and the inclusion of Mofaz, a former politician.

The feud brought to the surface long-simmering tensions between the military and some in the hard-right coalition over Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians, exposing cracks in the largely unified front presented by the cabinet since the war broke out three months ago.

Shaul Mofaz speaks during a conference at the Reichman University in Herzliya, May 17, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

It also came as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was headed to the region for highly anticipated talks on plans to wind down fighting and hand over civil control of Gaza.

According to the reports, Transportation Minister Miri Regev confronted Halevi during the meeting about the probe, with National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Regional Cooperation Minister David Amsalem joining the fray as they demanded to know why the army had decided to launch its probe with fighting ongoing in Gaza.

On the inclusion of Mofaz, ministers reportedly expressed anger due to his involvement in the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza. Some on the far-right hope to see the disengagement from the Strip reversed in the wake of the war against Hamas, and the reestablishment of settlements there.

On Friday, Smotrich, who leads the far-right Religious Zionism party, defended the attacks on Halevi during the previous night’s cabinet meeting, writing on X, formerly Twitter, that politicians questioning or criticizing military officials does not mean they are not giving full support to the army amid the war against Hamas in Gaza.

“It is permissible and even desirable to ask the army questions, and to criticize it as well,” he wrote. “The attempts to prevent this are undemocratic and very dangerous. This is the first lesson from the initial investigation of the October 7 [assaults].”

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