Israeli defense minister, Bogie Yaalon, has been locked in a major fiscal battle with Finance Minister Yair Lapid over funding for the IDF. Lapid is desperately trying to cut ministerial budgets, while the IDF naturally tries to expand its funding in every budgetary cycle. The IDF is the nation’s 800-pound gorilla. It sucks up money. It sucks up manpower. It’s used to considering the national budget its personal piggybank.
A highly-placed Likud politician revealed to me today that as part of that battle, Yaalon ordered that the IDF use an obsolete 50 year-old model of armored personnel carrier in the Gaza war. He hoped that either the APC would fail in battle (as it did) or at least he’d be able to point to use of the vehicle as a shameful example of budgetary penny-pinching forced on the army by finance ministry cuts, which diminished operational readiness of the IDF.
Haaretz’s Amos Harel points out the fallacies that underlie the IDF claim:
It turns out the General Command hadn’t even known that M-113s, which are ancient, poorly protected vehicles, were being used in Gaza. Only after that incident did the Southern Command issue an order forbidding M-113s to enter Gaza.
The army promptly cited this incident in support of its demand for a budget increase, but the mishap wasn’t due to lack of funds. The fact is that immediately after that attack, a convoy of modern Namer and Achzarit APCs, which have better protection, began making its way from the Lebanese border to Gaza. In short, there was no budgetary problem here, but one of planning and resource allocation.
As a result of this political maneuvering, 7 soldiers were incinerated during a street battle during which a Palestinian fighter fired an anti-tank missile, which destroyed the vehicle. Only one soldier survived. Two of the dead were U.S. citizens.
In other words, Yaalon gambled the lives of these boys away hoping for a budgetary advantage. The dead were sacrificed on the altar of expediency.
Increasing the severity of the incident, the only reason why the Palestinians got a shot at the APC was that the ancient, outdated vehicle had broken down and was waiting for another APC to pick up its passengers and take them to their destination. Clearly, whoever ordered these vehicles into battle should be court-martialed or, in the case of Yaalon, fired.
In a new development, Nana reports that 30 IDF reservists have publicly announced they will refuse to travel in the Zelda M-113s in the event they are stationed in Gaza and asked to travel in it.
When people wonder where the supremely confident, well-trained and equipped IDF of the 1967 War went, they should know it deteriorated precisely over such corrupt, borderline criminal behavior such as this. I’ve documented other examples of outright IDF corruption. This tragedy ranks right up there in cynicism.
Every minister has his dutiful Boswell regurgitating his talking points for the Israeli media public. Ben Caspit seems to serve that role for Yaalon. In a report dripping with patriotic fervor (Hebrew) for the boys who made the ‘ultimate sacrifice,’ he goes into high dudgeon over the obsolete “Zelda” (M113) into which these poor boys were packed:
I want these soldiers to have enough ‘Namer’ (a more modern, protected vehicle) APCs, so they won’t have to enter Gaza in the Zelda, like the one that was hit resulting in 7 dead…I want a ‘windbreaker’ for every tank and Iron Dome for everyone. And tanks even more heavily armored, and sufficient budget to train these soldiers, so that they have every good thing that can be provided for them by this country including a decent, even indulgent salary to compensate them for the personal and family sacrifices they’re making, so we can look out for them as they’re looking out for us.
When Caspit’s reporting days are over he can be assured of a job as Yaalon’s publicist and speechwriter. Another tidbit about Caspit, he’s one of the odd bunch of Israeli journalists featured in Al Monitor’s Israel Pulse section, which also boasts an avowed settler ultra-nationalist contributor. That should make Caspit feel right at home.
Of course, my source has his own bone to pick with Yaalon. Most of the Likud now expect, after Lieberman’s break-up of the governing coalition, a new election in 2015. It’s every man for himself. Every potential candidate for party leader, should Bibi step down, seeks a political angle. They’re all positioning themselves for maximum advantage. Even though Yaalon is a cynical scumbag who caused the deaths of those 7 boys, his enemies are taking advantage of his inexcusable decision to make life miserable for him.
But the truth is that every one of these Likud mini-Bibis have skeletons rattling around in their closets. No one is Mr. Clean. Most importantly, they’ll all lead Israel even farther into the darkness than Bibi has.