Israel Defence Forces are as prepared for war as they were in 1967.
Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, made the assessment following a damning report by IDF Ombudsman Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick on the military’s state for action.
IDF Chief of Staff, Gadi Eisenkot, backed his viewpoint on Tuesday.
“We’re at the highest level of preparedness since the Six-Day War,” Lieberman reportedly said after reading the report and speaking with Brick.
He added, “He’s greatly mistaken about one issue, the issue of the IDF’s preparedness for war.”
Lieberman, who has sat on the Security Cabinet for decades, did acknowledge logistical issues with the IDF, explaining that it was a “massive machine” with hundreds of thousands of soldiers and tens of thousands of military instruments from planes to APCs and sniper rifles.
“The IDF’s state of preparedness will never be ideal but when I compare it throughout the years since 1967, we haven’t been as prepared as we are today,” he noted.
The furore with Brick followed his presentation of a 250-page report to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee detailing potential IDF issues over a war in Gaza or Lebanon.
Whilst the IDF rejected the report, noting it could not measure the true level of preparedness, Brick defended his belief that more scrutiny was needed, citing past failures, to be ready for action for the Yom Kippur and second Lebanon Wars.
But an IDF statement remained steadfast.
“The IDF has an extensive system of review in all units, as well as through an IDF ombudsman,” a spokesperson noted.
“In the last few years the IDF has carried out inspections of the preparedness, which regularly visit all army units and provide a document to military commanders.
“Furthermore, the IDF is subject to external criticism by the State Comptroller and the IDF is open to and welcomes any criticism carried out by the official bodies and in a professional manner.”
As tempers intensified, Lieberman slammed Education Minister, Nafatli Bennett, for comments ridiculing his security policy.
“I suggest Minister Bennett talks about education and not security,” Lieberman said.
“There’s a reason he’s not talking about education. Bennett is willing, for just one (parliament) seat to sacrifice both education and security.
“Bennett is focusing solely on politics, as he’s done since arriving in politics.”
Lieberman added that Bayit Yehudi leader, Bennett, was electioneering.
“The next elections will be characterised by a struggle between a zealot messianic right-wing and a stately, responsible right-wing that I represent,” he said.
“I live among my people, unlike Mr. Bennett who lives in Raanana.
“I live in Nokdim, I know exactly what the public thinks and the people understand and trust that we’re prepared for any possible scenario in the future.”
Returning to the issue of security, Lieberman noted he was not looking to conquer Gaza or give citizenship to tens of thousands of Palestinians but “maintain the Jewish State”.
“The citizens of Israel will have to decide what they want, a bi-national State as Bennett wants, or a Jewish State as I propose,” he explained.
He added, “Hamas is inflaming the area because it realises it could lose control and it’s trying to channel the masses’ rage towards Israel.
“Hamas understands it has failed.”
Lieberman continued, “We can’t reach any agreements with them, we’re not looking for escalation and adventures.
“I hope Gaza residents overthrow the Hamas regime.
“As someone who follows social media, I think they understand that if they want to ensure a better future for their children, they must get rid of Hamas.”
Bayit Yehudi leader Bennett has been an ongoing critic of Lieberman, days ago accusing him of “weakness” for engaging in ceasefire talks with Hamas.
“Terror is continuing at the expense of security of our residents thanks to Lieberman’s policy of restraint and weakness,” he noted last Sunday.
Bennett pledged to discuss the issue at the next Security Cabinet meeting.
Lieberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party noted the attacks pointed to Bennett’s “hysteria and jealousy”.
But Bennett made his remarks after local authorities in Gaza border communities intiated updated safety guidelines after renewed violence where an average of 12 fires a day caused by incendiary balloons have hit forests in the Eshkol and Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Councils.
“Palestinians are launching balloons day and night,” an announcement noted.
“If you recognise something suspicious on the ground, do not touch it and keep away. We recommend that parents explain this to their children as well,”.
It had seemed that Hamas had curbed launches during cease-fire talks with Israel.
But security forces throughout Gaza communities briefed by the IDF were told of danger.
“Our feeling is that we are facing yet another round of escalation,” said a security spokesman.
“Hamas has loosened the reins and is now authorising the operation of incendiary balloon terrorist squads.”
Bennett quickly commented on the violence.
“Incendiary kites and balloons continue to threaten the residents of the Gaza region, the riots on the border fence are escalating and IDF positions are infiltrated by Palestinians without fear,” he said.
“This is not the way to handle security policy, this is how a policy of failure looks.
“At the beginning of the violent occurrences, I presented a plan to deal with the Gaza Strip which is based on a fundamental principle, restraint leads to escalation and this is what it has done.”
He added, “The current situation is a direct result of Lieberman’s policy toward Gaza.
“Under the guise of ‘pragmatism’ and ‘responsibility,’ Lieberman has left the security of the southern residents to the considerations of Hamas.
“The time has come to tell the truth. The Lieberman-Hamas agreements have crashed.
“This is not the security policy that the public expects to see from a right-wing government.
“Voters of the nationalist Right expect to see a heavy hand and zero tolerance for dangerous Palestinian terror. This situation has to stop,” he added.
On the ground, nothing appears to change in terms of terror attacks.
Earlier this week firefighters battled four fires caused by incendiary balloons near the northern Gaza Strip,
Around 4,000 Palestinians participated in riots, a number hurling rocks, Molotov cocktails and fireworks at IDF soldiers who responded with riot-dispersal techniques.
Forces also fired warning shots at boats sailing toward Israel from Gaza’s main port.
The violence followed 20,000 demonstrators rioting at various locations in response to Hamas calls to resume “March of Return” protests last Friday.
Palestinian health ministry officials said seven people were killed and at least 90 wounded by IDF fire during clashes.
An IDF spokesperson confirmed in response to dozens of explosive devices hurled at troops that two airstrikes had taken place at Hamas posts in the strip.
They also said the number of demonstrators was the highest since a renewal of violence.
Rioters sabotaged security infrastructures, tried to break through the border fence and hurled over 100 improvised explosive devices and grenades at IDF soldiers.
No Israeli casualties were reported.
While hostilities continue unabated on the border a war of words appears set to continue in the Knesset.