State comptroller pans government preparedness, slow response to outbreak of war

In letter to prime minister, Matanyahu Englman says ‘many failures and gaps’ in handling of home front, ‘no justification for the late awakening’ of state authorites in giving aid

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman at the Federation of Local Authorities conference in Tel Aviv, December 7, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman at the Federation of Local Authorities conference in Tel Aviv, December 7, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman criticized the government over its lack of preparedness for the outbreak of war when Hamas launched its devastating attack last month, and for what he termed the state’s slow response to assisting the civilian populations most impacted by the conflict.

In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent on Monday Englman wrote, “There is no justification for the late awakening of the Israeli government.”

On October 7, over 3,000 terrorists led by Hamas burst through the border with the Gaza Strip and rampaged murderously through southern areas. In the hours until the IDF could mount a response, some 1,200 people were killed and at least 240 people were abducted to Gaza.

The attack came under the cover of a barrage of thousands of rockets fired at Israel, which launched a military campaign aimed at destroying Hamas and removing it from power in Gaza. Hamas and other terror groups, including those in Lebanon, have continued firing rockets at Israel, displacing over 200,000 people from their homes near the borders.

Englman has spent the past five weeks visiting conflict areas and meeting with residents who were evacuated from their communities. Many have been put up in hotels or guesthouses paid for by the government. Others have chosen to stay with relatives or rented apartments in safer areas and their children have been absorbed into local education frameworks.

“Besides the war effort managed by the war cabinet and the security cabinet, many failures and gaps are evident in the government’s handling of the home front,” Englman wrote.

“The prime minister, who stands at the head of the establishment, must urgently correct all the deficiencies that have arisen,” he said.

Evacuated Kibbutz Be’eri residents at a Dead Sea hotel, October 20, 2023 (Arik Zamir / Flash90)

Englman called for an aid program for evacuees from conflict areas, emergency government funding for civil ministries, and information to be made public about government activities. He also urged support for education, mental health, and health care.

“The government’s emergency preparedness was supposed to be comprehensive, detailed, practiced, and ready for operation,” Engelman wrote. “This is the expected standard, in reference to which all the gaps and failures evident in the functioning of the civil systems in the first month of the war must be examined.”

“This is also the standard expected from a country whose preparation for an emergency is a necessary and fundamental step in its response to its complex security challenges,” he continued. “The first month of the emergency period should not be characterized by a gradual and slow process of governmental organization, but in the rapid activation of ready-made plans and arrangements.”

He highlighted what he said was a failure to evacuate injured people in a timely manner during the attack, leading many to bleed to death as they cried out for help. There was a severe shortage of armored ambulances, he said.

Englman compared “the wonderful spirit of volunteering that exists” among the civilian population, with drives being undertaken across the country to provide resources for soldiers and displaced residents, to the government’s response.

“It sharpens the need for an efficient and quick response from the governmental system,” he said.

Englman also noted that the general lack of readiness had been brought up before in previous comptroller reports, “for example in the areas of protection, shelter, and evacuation of the population, in the treatment of anxiety victims during an emergency, in education and distance learning, and more.”

Rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel over destroyed buildings, October 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohammed Dahman)

Engleman has already said he will conduct a more thorough review of the events leading up to and after October 7. In his letter, he vowed to “turn over every stone to get to the truth and point to the responsibility of the parties concerned from all levels.”

He said he would set a date to begin the review and ensure that it was clearly separate from any state investigative committee that may be established in parallel. For the time being, with the war still raging, his auditing will focus on “the response of the state authorities to the civilian home front.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, visits the IDF’s Desert Reconnaissance Battalion, also known as Unit 585 or the Bedouin Battalion, on November 13, 2023. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Netanyahu has not joined a long list of other senior officials who have acknowledged responsibility for the severe strategic failure that enabled the Hamas attack.

On Sunday, during an interview with CNN, Netanyahu rebuffed a question relating to his own responsibility.

“It’s a question that needs to be asked… and I’ve said we’re going to answer all these questions, including me,” after the war,” he said.

The prime minister has been criticized for remarks he has made that apparently assign blame for the major intelligence and operational failures to members of the defense and security establishment, or to reservist soldiers who said they would not show up for duty in protest of the government’s planned far-reaching overhaul of the judiciary.

Most Popular
read more: