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The time has come for an investigation into the October 7 failures – opinion

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The time has come for a thorough investigation into the Hamas massacre of October 7. Enough with the excuses, enough putting off the inevitable.

There are those who argue and say “not yet,” who say “wait until the war is over.” They claim that an investigation now will distract the IDF, intel agencies and political leadership from the concentration needed to make the crucial decisions to win this war.

They are wrong.

Israel is a strong democracy. At any given moment, the IDF, intel agencies and political leadership juggle multiple issues, huge issues, many of which we never even hear about. They are the A-Team. They can handle it.

The shock has worn off. The pain will never disappear. The more time that passes, the more memories become faded or altered or even influenced. The longer it takes, the more likely evidence will fade away and disappear. And it’s been too long already.

Palestinians take control of an Israeli tank after crossing the border fence with Israel from Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, October 7, 2023. (credit: ABED RAHIM KHATIB/FLASH90)

In December, a mere two months after the massacre, fears surfaced about commanders deleting video of Hamas training and other evidentiary material. Thankfully, in the end, that evidence was “relocated” and deemed appropriate to be viewed only by people with very special clearance.

On December 3, a message was posted on an IDF X account: “All the materials from the operational systems of the IDF related to documented events, are preserved and accessible to the relevant parties.” The message continued: “Like other operational materials, access to the materials is blocked to those who are not required to deal with them. Any other claim is baseless.”

No question that, leading up to October 7, many mistakes were made. No question that those who made the mistakes are already girding themselves against the accusations that will be hurled against them. No question that they are already internally accounting for their ultimate accountability.

THEIR MISTAKES were born out of a dangerous – dare I say toxic – mix of ineptitude, negligence and haughty arrogance. That more people in senior positions have not yet done their own soul searching and stepped down after publicly making their mea culpas honestly surprises me. But that’s where the arrogance comes in.

They know who they are. The guilt alone would crush most people. But these people are different.

Responsibility stops at the top. The heads and many of the deputy heads of the IDF, all the intel agencies and certainly the prime minister should resign. They would be smart to recount their mistakes without violating security issues and offer explanations for why they are still in position.

The ombudsman of the nation

Matanyahu Englman, Israel’s state comptroller and ombudsman, announced also in December that he was opening a thorough, impartial investigation into the massacre.

The comptroller of the State of Israel is much more than a simple comptroller. A comptroller looks at accounting and finances. The English title “comptroller” is misleading and incorrect – Mivaker HaMedina, “Critic of the State” is much more apt, more clearly defining the role that Englman holds.

The “mivaker” is voted in by the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, and is accountable to the Knesset and the Knesset alone. It is a non-political position. In fact, the person holding the position may not be a member of Knesset.

The task of the state comptroller is to investigate and review all functions of government. Nothing is beyond their investigative purview. He or she is also the address for all complaints against the government, which means that the state comptroller is also the ombudsman of the nation.

THE MOVEMENT for Quality Government in Israel (MQG) petitioned the high court, Israel’s Supreme Court, to stop the investigation. The Attorney-General’s Office joined the case. The attorney-general wrote in their submission to the court: “The requested interim order [for Englman’s investigation to be halted] should be accepted, as holding an investigation at this time… will lead to substantive harm to the operational capability of security services and harm the fighting.” According to reports, the IDF went directly to Englman’s office, imploring him to halt his investigation.

The Supreme Court refused to stay or halt the state comptroller’s investigation. The Court gave all parties until June 8 to write their reasons for their stand. In the meantime, agencies – including the IDF, must adhere to Englman’s request for material and information.

Parenthetically, for those worried about senior leadership having too much to deal with at one time, that is the same date laid down to Bibi Netanyahu by Benny Gantz to come up with a new war plan or he will resign from the government.

In the spirit of full disclosure, Englman is married to my wife’s cousin. I am not here to defend him – I am defending the Jewish state. I am demanding justice for all those murdered, maimed and held captive. My agenda is to help heal a ruptured and torn state, the deeply saddened State of Israel.

The lion’s share of this war is over, but the war could drag on. The heart of the Jewish state now beats to a new normal rhythm. The time has come for those who should take responsibility to accept that responsibility; for those who are accountable to answer.

This is a moral and an ethical issue for the state and for its leaders. A thorough investigation is an issue of national safety and national security. As Englman correctly asserts, finding out exactly what happened and what led up to the massacre of October 7 will absolutely ensure a safer Israel.

On his desk, US president Harry S. Truman had a sign that read “the buck stops here.” He was ultimately responsible. The expression comes from card playing on the US frontier (not the nickname for the dollar). The dealer was chosen by the passing of a knife with a “buck horn” handle. If a person did not want to be the dealer, he passed the buck to another dealer.

The buck needs to stop in Israel – and it needs to stop now.

The writer, now based in the US, is a columnist and a social and political commentator. Watch his TV show Thinking Out Loud on JBS.

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