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FUROR page 68
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* IDF soldiers running away
in the bloody 1949 assault by
Palestinian terrorists on the
Negev village of Amatzia.
In the past, Mr. Gelber noted,
Israelis didn't find out about the
army's screw-ups. Until the Yom
Kippur War, which dashed the
country's blind faith in its mili-
tary leaders, a fiasco like the one
in South Lebanon would have
been reported without any of the
embarrassing details. Today,
with the Israeli media much
more aggressive and critical, and
the IDF censor much less strict,
army missteps, large and small,
are pored over and judged in de-
tail before the public.
After the battle, the military
and political establishment tried
to mount a defense for the "iso-
lated breakdown" argument.
Orr noted that the same army
unit which acquitted itself so dis-
mally on Oct. 30 had engaged
Hezbollah head-on a month be-
fore, suffering casualties and
killing some of the attackers.
"What happened does not repre-
sent a broad phenomenon or even
the trace of one," he said.
But critics looked at what hap-
peace process. High-level com-
manders act as if they're waiting
for an invitation to a [peacemak-
ing] ceremony instead of being at
the army outposts and carrying
out training and preparations
from morning til night."
Mr. Gelber went so far as to
say that today's IDF had been
"castrated" by a combination of
forces: the hypercritical attitude
of the media and the public; the
now-common accusations against
the army made by parents of sol-
diers who are hurt or killed while
on duty; and the experience of
fighting a losing, one-step-for-
ward, two-steps-back battle
against the intifada. All this has
tied the EDFs hands, undermin-
ing its aggressiveness and will-
ingness to take risks, Mr. Gelber
"Soldiers learn that the most
important thing is to stay alive,"
he maintained. "They learn that
it's not bad to run away; the
whole army ran away from
Dr. Moshe Even-Chen, the
IDF's chief psychologist from
1989-93, said battle conditions in
South Lebanon - where Israeli in-
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pened and drew all sorts of far-
flung conclusions about the IDF,
and about the state of the nation.
One popular notion was that the
last few years of bourgeois living
had softened Israelis and made
them more selfish, so that sol-
diers no longer had the old esprit
de corps and were more interest-
ed in looking out for number one.
Another interpretation, fa-
vored by right-wingers, was that
the peace process had lured Is-
raelis into thinking that any day
they would be able to put down
their guns, so who wanted to be
the last casualty of the war?
MK Rafael Eitan, head of the
right-wing Tsomet party and a
former IDF chief of staff; summed
up the view of the old, hawkish
Israeli warhorse: "It all comes
from lack gf discipline and fail-
ure to follow rules and regula-
tions. [But] the thing that has the
worst influence on the perfor-
mance of commanders is the
fantry units wait for Hezbollah
to attack, and retaliations are
carried out by the Israeli Air
Force - set the stage for these
kinds of failures. "If one side is
mobile, and the other side is sta-
tic, the side that is static is always
open to being surprised," he said.
As for why the IDF infantry is
static in South Lebanon, Dr.
Even-Chen cited the same trends
mentioned by Mr. Gelber.
In the end, two officers and five
soldiers were court martialed.
The three soldiers who ran away
from their posts received military
prison sentences of 25-60 days.
The officer in charge of the out-
post was stripped of his com-
mand. Another officer and a
soldier were reprimanded, and
one soldier was acquitted.
For the Israeli public, it was
a time to shake one's head, to grit
one's teeth, to mutter angrily and
wonder if some bedrock value of
life in this country was slipping.