The Haredi Nahal battalion started out of the living room of Brigadier General (Res.) Yehuda Duvdevani. Duvdevani, formerly a commander in the Givati Brigade, and head of the youth and Nahal department at Israel’s Ministry of Defense, gathered three youths from the Haredi sector, assigned several rabbis, and later succeeded in assembling the first Nahal group that served to establish the battalion.
Since then, more than a decade later, the battalion has kept the same form: three recruitment cycles per year and 120 recruits each time. Not all of the recruits are Haredim – some are devout religious Zionists that want to serve in a battalion without women. These days, the Haredi Nahal battalion (Netzach Yehuda – and despite the name, there is no connection between the battalion and the Nahal Brigade) serves in the Jenin sector.
Now the recruitment of Haredim into the IDF faces a new development: against the backdrop of the deliberations over the Tal Law, the IDF is preparing to have a second Haredi Nahal battalion. The next battalion is expected to serve along the heated sector of the Israeli-Egypt border at Sinai. Duvdevani is in the picture once again, and he is expected to meet with rabbi Ovadia Yosef and additional rabbis to discuss the matter.
Based on experience from the past decade, the battalion will be established, but it will not be connected in any organizational framework to the Netzach Yehuda battalion. If there is a third Haredi Nahal battalion in a year or two, it will serve near the northern border. The IDF prefers not to establish the framework of a Haredi battalion, but rather separate battalions that are not connected to one another in a regular organizational framework.
Kept secret until this week: the members of the public committee that advise on the continuation of the Merkava tank and Namer APC project met with the CEO of the Ministry of Defense, Major General (Res.) Udi Shani, and informed him of their intention to halt work.
The committee was appointed about a year ago, and is headed by Major General (Res.) Emanuel Sakel. Other members of the committee include Yossi Becher, Erez Maltzer – the jurist, Colonel Gilad Sar, and the economist Liora Meridor. The committee announced that it intends to cease its deliberations due to a lack of authority to make decisions. Two weeks have passed, and the resignation remains vague. It's unclear if the committee will convene once more.
What’s also unclear is the entire state of the Merkava project. The project is comprised of two parts – the production of the Merkava tank, which is carried out entirely in Israel, and the production of the Merkava (Namer) APC, which is partly carried out in the United States (by General Dynamics) and partly carried out in Israel (primarily the assembly stage). In total, more than 200 Israeli companies are involved in the Merkava tank project, and approximately 15 companies are involved in the Namer APC.
Due to the defense budget cuts, and after last year’s wave of social protests, the project’s budget is not sufficient, which is already resulting in fewer orders and firings in some of the small and medium-sized companies involved in the production of the tank components. For some reason, these layoffs are not receiving any media attention.
Another thing that has yet to close entirely is the identity of the system that will be used for active defense onboard the Merkava APCs. As previously revealed in this column, the Ministry of Defense CEO issued a directive several months ago that the system to be installed onboard the APCs will be developed and produced by Rafael as a main contractor (the Trophy system, which is already in full operational use in tanks), and with Elta (the radar) and IMI (the interceptor) as subcontractors. IMI appealed against the decision and even approached the State Comptroller, who published a harsh report about the Ministry of Defense’s conduct on this issue.
Now it can be revealed that Major General (Res.) Udi Shani cancelled his previous decision. An advanced negotiation is taking place between the Ministry of Defense and Rafael over the production of a significant portion of defense systems for the existing Namers and those that will come off the assembly line in the next two to three years. The development of the next generation protective system will remain open to competition; however, for the most part, IMI has lost out.
Another notable point regarding the Namer project is how former Ground Force Commander, Major General (Res.) Yiftah Ron Tal, called the Namer “a five million dollar bus.” Major General Shani revealed his stance about the project in a Yedioth Aharonot article on the 30-year anniversary of the First Lebanon War. “From my experience during that war, the heavy APC is not needed. Let the infantry soldiers walk by foot,” Shani said. The Ministry of Defense claimed retroactively that Shani’s comments “were made in reference to the outline of mountainous combat...”
The NSC Report
Next week, Israel’s State Comptroller will publish an important report consisting of two main components. The first deals with the implementation of the law pertaining to the NSC – the National Security Council, whose purpose is to serve as the bureau of the prime minister and the government on national security matters.
The second deals with the Turkish flotilla (the Mavi Marmara affair) of May 31, 2010, and contains two chapters – an inspection of the decision-making process and an inspection of the functioning of the National Information Directorate.
The report will offer a glimpse into the way decisions are made at the topmost political and defense echelons; it’s likely that quite a few failures will be revealed.
On the issue of the NSC, perhaps the question will be answered as to whether the head of the NSC should participate in all sensitive cabinet meetings (as the law dictates) or if he is compartmentalized from some of them, as is actually happening. An argument about the council’s authorities served as the background for severe conflicts at the Prime Minister’s office, which last year resulted in the resignation of the former head of the NSC, Uzi Arad.
Meeting at Eurosatory
While the State Comptroller’s report will be published next Wednesday, nearly everyone of importance in Israel’s defense industry will be in Paris at the Eurosatory 2012 weapons exhibition.
The exhibition, which focuses on the land arena and is considered the largest exhibition in the world, will see the presence of no less than 50 Israeli companies. Many companies, small and large, will be presenting the developments they have worked on for many years for the first time at the exhibition.
Towards this year’s exhibition, a positive development is taking shape: after several months of somberness, deals have recently been signed. The deal recently published by Elbit for selling unmanned aircraft to a "European country" (very close to Asia, one can say) for $560 million, is just one of these new deals. In addition, a very important deal is taking shape soon for Rafael, in the framework of cooperation with a large US company.
Enough of Barak and Ashkenazi
This column will not deal yet again in the ugly mud slinging fight taking place between Israel’s Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, and the former IDF Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi (or to be more precise: between their media advisors).
The latest round in the fight started this week following the revelations popping up in the media from the protocols of the State Comptroller’s investigations (for some reason, the protocols are being published even though they are under a legal publication prohibition, but that dam has already been breached). Why not quote the announcements of the media advisors in this column as well? In truth, because it’s enough already. Someone (perhaps the prime minister?) can at least stop the embarrassing announcements by Barak that are aimed at Ashkenazi (Netanyahu hasn’t the authority to stop the pointless announcements that also come from the other side).
Why the need to get involved? Because it’s the general populace that is the main casualty of the battle between their former chief of staff and their presiding minister of defense.