The outgoing Chief Infantry and Paratroopers Officer of the Israel Defense Forces, Brigadier General Yossi Hyman, on Sunday became the first senior officer to concede a degree of failure in the Lebanon war.
"We were guilty of the sin of arrogance," Hyman said at the changing-of-the-guard ceremony at the Kastina base, where he was replaced by Brigadier General Yossi Bachar.
Hyman said that "despite heroic fighting by the soldiers and commanders, especially at the company and battalion level, we all feel a certain sense of failure and missed opportunity ... At times, we were guilty of the sin of arrogance. Everyone tells about his mission, but not what he didn't do and where he went wrong."
He added: "I feel the weighty responsibility on my shoulders. I failed to prepare the infantry better for war. I did not manage to prevent burnout among professional companies and platoons. I feel no relief whatsoever in the face of the array of excuses ... At this time, it is not easy being part of the system. Part of the public, and perhaps also parts of the leadership, is expressing lack of faith in us."
Hyman has always been considered an officer who never hesitates to express his opinion vociferously, a fact that frequently aroused the ire of the military establishment. At Sunday's ceremony, too, IDF Ground Forces Commander Benny Gantz said that now is the time for the army to move forward, not express remorse.
The following is Ha'aretz's translation of the text of a petition signed by IDF reservists who served in the Spearhead Brigade in Lebanon, in protest at the handling of the war by the government and senior military officials:
We, fighters and commanders at the Spearhead [Hod Hachanit] Brigade, were called up to enlist under an emergency mobilization order [Tzav 8] on July 30, 2006. Our attendance was complete in all battalions.
As we were signing on the battle equipment and weapons, we knew that we were signing for much more. We left behind wives and children, girlfriends and families. We put aside our jobs and livelihoods; we were prepared to carry out our mission under the most difficult of conditions, in heat, thirst or hunger.
At the back of his mind, each and every one of us knew, that for the just cause of protecting the citizens of Israel, we would even put our lives on the line.
But there was one thing we were not and would not be willing to accept: We were unwilling to accept indecisiveness. The war's aim, which was not defined clearly, was even changed in the course of the fighting.
The indecisiveness manifested itself in inaction, in not carrying out operational plans, and in canceling all the missions we were given during the fighting. This led to prolonged stays in hostile territory, without an operational purpose and out of unprofessional considerations, without seeking to engage in combat with the enemy.
The "cold feet" of the decision-makers were evident everywhere. To us the indecisiveness expressed deep disrespect for our willingness to join the ranks and fight and made us feel as though we had been spat on, since it contradicts the principles and values of warfare upon which we were trained at the Israel Defense Forces.
The heavy feeling that in the echelons above us there is nothing but under-preparation, insincerity, lack of foresight and inability to make rational decisions, leads to the question - were we called up for nothing?
We are now on the day after, and it seems that the immorality and the absence of any shame are the fig-leaves to be used in order to cover up for the blunders. The blunders of the past six years and the under-preparation of the army have been carried on our backs - the backs of the fighters. In order to face the next battle prepared - and this may happen soon - a thorough and fundamental change must take place.
The crisis of confidence between us as fighters and the higher echelons will not be resolved without a thorough and worthy investigative commission under the auspices of the state. When the commission completes its task, conclusions must be drawn both on the level of strategic planning and national security, and on the personal level of the parties involved.
We paid a heavy price in order to fight and come out of the battle victorious, and we feel this has been denied of us. We will all attend calls to enlist in the future for any mission we will be required to complete, but we would like to know that these missions will be part of a clear objective and will be carried out by striving to engage in combat.
As soldiers and citizens we expect a response at your earliest convenience,
We the undersigned
Fighters and officers of the Spearhead Brigade