“The IDF must always be ready at the helm”

Dan Bronfeld, IDF (Zahal) Spokesperson

“The State of Israel, the IDF (Zahal), and Israeli society do not have the ability to absorb another Yom Kippur War. This is my obligation as the Chief of the General Staff,” writes Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi in response to decisions taken on by leadership during the Yom Kippur War

Date: 10/10/2010, 7:08 PM     Author: Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi

The recent headlines in newspapers have operated as a time machine- returning us all to the same feelings that moved us almost four decades ago, to another period during which the State of Israel changed, and became a different country. “The Sobering Period” which we underwent as an army, as a society, and as a country after the Yom Kippur War, is returning now to the center of Israeli dialogue.

It is not a tired cliche to say that the IDF (Zahal) before Yom Kippur of 1973 and the IDF (Zahal) afterward is not the same army. From that point until today, the lessons learned from the war are a constant trauma, an ever-present shadow on the schools of the General Staff, lead by the commanders of the IDF (Zahal) – the majority of whom were in their youth at the time – and are constantly part of our agendas.

I am sure that the intelligence surprise and the feeling of uncertainty that the war brought on serve as important insights for future military achievements, for the understanding of the size of our mission and of the great responsibility placed on us. This is our endless Sisyphean challenge to the strength and capability of the IDF (Zahal).

This is the reason why after 62 years of independence, we continue to enlist every boy and girl. This is the reason why we place our reservists at the core of the army. This is also the reason why they continue to come.

This war, and the days that preceded it, taught us to investigate, and to question even that which we see as truth, to refute axioms, and in essence not to become infatuated by our own ideas. No longer will we be captives to one way of reasoning, as consolidated and justified as it may be, but instead we must be supporters of the culture of contradiction who serve as Devil’s advocates.

As Chief of the General Staff, standing as the head of the Israel Defense Forces, I know that the main lesson from the Yom Kippur War is that we must always have one finger on the pulse, we must never underestimate any enemy, we must be modest in our estimations, we must ask questions, we must cast doubt, we must know that we cannot rely on the success of yesterday, because it is no longer relevant, and in essence we must accept and understand that we can know only that which we know and we can see only that which we see.

The IDF (Zahal) must always be ready at the helm. The press of the past few days points out that the State of Israel, the IDF (Zahal), and Israeli society do not have the ability to absorb another Yom Kippur War. This is our responsibility in the IDF (Zahal), and this is my obligation as the Chief of the General Staff, and that is why we carry on day and night. We owe this to those who fell and to their families, and we owe it to ourselves and our children.