Seldom does one have the opportunity to circumvent the Israel Military Censor with the absolute security that he can’t react.
Censorship of large military moves is a thing of the past. Hiding movements of troops in an environment where most people have cellular phones and cameras is impossible, at least in the long term.
During Operation Pillar of Cloud, Israel was unable to hide the preparations for a ground attack on Gaza. The odd result—reported by Haaretz on November 17, 2012—was a text message sent to many Israelis by Hamas’ al-Aqsa Brigades reading “We will turn Gaza into a cemetery for your soldiers.”
For unknown reasons, the attack was cancelled.
IDF—Resistance is Futile!
On July 10, 2013, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz announced a key rearrangement of the army he leads. In an unprecedented step, the key movements were announced, including the numbers of the units involved. Gantz didn’t become a bastion of democracy; he is aware that his stronghold is closely watched. Resistance was futile.
Instead of complete censorship, Gantz opted for damage control, hiding strategic details and providing a false justification to the shift of the forces on the Golan Heights.
On June 15, in $100 Million and 4 Guns, I reported on the ongoing upgrade of the Golani Junction in the Galilee into an interchange. The junction connects Haifa and the Coastal Plain with the Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights. During a conventional war, the IDF must use this junction for moving reserves and equipment to the frontline. Block it, and the Golan Heights would return to Syria in less than 24 hours.
Currently, the IDF has its largest heavy division—Division “Volcano” 36—deployed in the Golan Height. Unusually, it operated two regional brigades controlling the strongholds line following the border. The southern part of the Golan Heights drops sharply towards the Jordan Valley; its tip is controlled by Division 162 from the valley.
Division 366 Patch
The Fifth Column
Division 36 is strong but not enough to stop the Syrian army. The Syrian artillery placed in the area is enough to wipe out the division in a matter of hours. Thus, a key IDF movement—classified until Gantz made it obsolete—was the rapid move of Division “Path of Fire” 366—placed near the Haifa Port—through the Golani Junction up the Golan Heights. Not anymore; Division 366 is moving.
Path of Shame
Let me venture a prediction. After the move, the division would change its number. Then, its shame would be hidden, but not forgotten.
In 2006, Israel was defeated in Lebanon. The army commander back then was Dan Halutz, an air force officer. It is unusual for a “blue” (someone from the air force in Hebrew slang) to reach such a position. Halutz held back the “greens” (ground forces) during the operation because he didn’t trust them and sent the air force ahead. It was a disaster. The fact that in the morning of the attack he found time to contact his broker and sell his stocks in the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange didn’t help to his public image. He left humiliated.
Another error committed by Halutz was to send Division 366 into Lebanon. The reserve division was headed at the time by Brigadier General Erez Zuckerman. He had no experience commanding armored units. He had commanded naval, infantry and special units before this post. He didn’t pass the customary “Change to Armored Corps” course offered in such cases. The division hadn’t trained since 2001 and was unprepared. Before that, it had always prepared for the Golan Heights; it didn’t know Lebanon. Yet, Zuckerman begged to be added to the force.
After a while, Halutz agreed. Zuckerman was sent into Lebanon as an independent force, unrelated to the three other divisions of the Northern Command attacking there. It was a disaster that contributed much to the analysis of the war as an IDF defeat. Zuckerman’s performance was very poor. Division 366 is not Path of Fire, but Path of Shame.
The Bental-Avital extinct volcano on the Golan Heights, home to largest IDF surveillance base in the area, from where Damascus is visible
Carried away by my own prose, I almost forgot to mention the ongoing camouflage efforts.
Hiding the move of Division 366 is impossible. 36 is the largest regular army division; 366 is the largest in the reserve army. Nosy civilians tend to note caravans of tanks atop semi-trailer trucks passing in front of their homes.
The main reason—fear that the Golani Junction would be attacked with missiles and the Northern Command would be rendered useless—wasn’t mentioned. Instead, Lieutenant General Gantz justified the event on an attempt to “block terrorist attacks from Syria, allowing Division 36 to prepare for other scenarios.”
What he called “terror attacks” were answers of the Syrian Army to Israeli airstrikes within Syria(see Syria Counterattacks Israel). If the IDF stops attacking, the answers will stop. Syria has more urgent issues right now than firing mortars at deserted strongholds.
In other words, Division 366 will take over the strongholds line, which is populated by rotating regular army units while 36 will prepare for an attack on Syria. Locations were not disclosed, but considering the location of the Division 36 headquarters, it is safe to assume that 366 would get a shiny new tent in the southern half of the Golan Heights.
The cost of the move is estimated to be above $50 million. Gantz mentioned “the IDF is moving ahead of the events, not waiting for potential threats to materialize.” In my personal Hebrew-English dictionary this is defined: “The IDF will attack.”
full version at http://roitov.com/articles/366.htm
* Israel’s Military Censor is technically part of AMAN (“Agaf Modi’in,” literally the “Informants Section.” In English-militarese, this is the IDF Intelligence Directorate), but it works as an independent unit. Its head is appointed directly by the Defense Minister—a highly unusual step—and is only subject to parliamentary and judicial oversight. Not even the Minister of Defense can give orders to it. The Military Censor has the authority to suppress information it deems compromising from being made public in the media. Probably the most famous event ever censored was the Kav 300 picture (see Kav 300 Forever, picture is reproduced below); the picture was exposed to the Israeli public only after the New York Times published it. This is typical; Israeli news outlets often circumvent the censor by reporting stories “as quoted from foreign news sources,” which are not subject to the restrictions of the Israeli military censor. The trial of Mordechai Vanunu, the assassination attempt on Khaled Mashal (see Mossad, Sonic Weapons & Haled Mashal) and events related to Operation Defensive Shield and Operation Cast Lead were also famously censored.