Israel army chief pushes back against 7 October probe, fearing 'Netanyahu interference'
The head of the Israeli armed forces has pushed back against a probe into the surprise Hamas attack on 7 October,
Chief of Staff Gen. Herzi Halevi asked the state comptroller on Wednesday to delay a planned investigation into the security failures leading up to 7 October, fearing the military will be used as a scapegoat by the embattled Israeli government.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced growing domestic anger over his handling of the Gaza war, including the failure to bring home the remaining hostages captured by Hamas on 7 October with around 1,2oo Israelis killed, according to government figures.
"There is no precedent for holding such a review during the war," Halevi wrote to Matanyahu Englman, who was appointed to conduct the investigation, according to The Times of Israel.
"The IDF is in the midst of an unprecedented war. The audit will divert the attention of the commanders from the fighting, will damage the operational investigation ability, and will not allow drawing necessary lessons to achieve the goals of the war."
Last December, Englman said he would leave "no stone unturned" in carrying out his investigation.
His office will conduct a comprehensive investigation into the "multi-system failures", scrutinising those with "personal responsibility" for the shortcomings across "policy, military, and civilian" levels.
However, Englman was appointed directly by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as opposed to selection via an independent body.
This has sparked suspicion within the military top brass that the investigation seeks to deflect public criticism and accountability from Netanyahu’s unpopular government, which already faces legal challenges.
Many leading officers in the Israeli army feel that Netanyahu has deliberately sabotaged the military’s internal probes and is trying to exert power over Halevi by "activating" Englman, according to Haaretz.
The consensus among many officers appears to be that Netanyahu will try to use the military as a scapegoat for any perceived failures or cover-ups relating to 7 October and its immediate aftermath.
The Israeli government and military have both come under domestic criticism for their handling of 7 October with events of the day still not fully accounted for.
An Israeli police report independent of both the government and military in November found that a military helicopter was responsible for a number of those killed at the Nova music festival on that day, believing they were Hamas fighters.
However, precise details on the identities and number of those killed by the Israeli military are not yet known.
The official number of Israelis killed on 7 October has changed numerous times, with it originally being given as more than 1, 400. This was then revised downwards in December to 1,139, with 695 Israeli civilians among the dead.