Why IDF General Dan Goldfus is Wrong

Politicians are democratically elected. That is their stamp of authority. Army officers are not. They need to prove that they are worthy of their soldiers’ trust.

“You should be worthy of us”. These were the words with which Brigadier General Dan Goldfus rebuked Israel’s leaders earlier this week. In the midst of a press conference outside Gaza, Goldfus finished his remarks by imploring Israel’s leaders to be worthy of the sacrifices of the soldier’s on the battlefield. Brigadier General Dan Goldfus is commander of the 98th Division, which has been an integral part of the fighting over the last four months in Gaza. However, rebuking Israel’s democratically elected leaders from the battlefield was wrong and also illustrated his lack of understanding of who needs to be worthy of whom.

Here is what Goldfus said:

“I would like to take this opportunity to address our leaders from all sides of the political aisle. And I hope they can find time to listen to the heart of a soldier. To the heart of a soldier who fought from October 7 on the cursed Saturday and since then I have not stopped fighting. Since then I have not stopped sending soldiers and charging with them towards the fire. We are fighting. We don’t get tired. We are determined to win.”

“Don’t worry, we military men have taken responsibility for all of our actions in the past, in the present and in the future. We won’t run from responsibility, just as we don’t run from the bullets.  We won’t shirk responsibility. We bow our heads in the face of our resounding failure on October 7, but at the same time, we continue moving forward…”

However, you (the leaders), you must, you must be worthy of us. You must be worthy of those soldiers who sacrificed their lives. You must be worthy of the reserve soldiers who came and fought and continue to fight shoulder to shoulder while putting politics aside.  Make sure that everyone is doing their share. You must. You must make sure that we do not return to October 6, and that all the war effort and sacrifice was not in vain. Keep this in your thoughts every day. Every day and every hour. From the blood of a soldier’s heart, I ask you to be united and repel the extremes and embrace togetherness and connection. We on the battlefield, have found this and we don’t intend to give him up.”

At first glance, it seems like a proper rebuke. We are united on the battlefield, so to you, our leaders, should be united. Be worthy of those who gave their lives and those who are fighting – everybody wants to aspire to that. Indeed, some politicians were quick to embrace Goldfus’s speech. But in truth he is completely wrong. And the politicians who were quick to praise him fail to understand how dangerous and inappropriate his rebuke is.

First, our leaders need not be worthy of us. It would be nice if they are in words and actions, but they have no such obligation. The politicians were elected to their position by the citizens of Israel in a democratic election. They were chosen for their position. The election is their stamp of authority and worthiness.  And if the Israeli citizens deem them to be unworthy, then they will vote them out in the next election.

Yet, there are people who “should be worthy of us”. There is a group of people who need to prove their merit, especially to the soldiers. They are the commanders in the army. The generals in the IDF, the brigadier generals, the division commanders, the brigade commanders, and the battalion commanders. The commanders who bear the awesome responsibility of making life and death decisions for their soldiers and who were not elected democratically in any way. They need to prove their merit.

Some high-ranking officers in the army were promoted because of their skills, others because of their connections, and some because of politics. Nonetheless, they all need to be worthy of us. To be worthy of our trust. These commanders should be worthy of the reserve and regular army soldiers who are ready to go into battle as soon as they receive the order no matter how dangerous and life-threatening it may be. These commanders need to be worthy in their actions and behavior of the trust that the soldiers place in them despite never being asked if they approve of their commanders.

And it is precisely the upper echelons of the IDF, especially the brigadier generals and above, who have not taken any meaningful responsibility for the failure of October 7, except for empty words of “we take responsibility”, without any change in deed or course of action. Indeed, taking responsibility has become a mantra where all one needs to say is “I am responsible”, and they are forgiven.

The upper echelon of the army continues in their same flawed way of thinking without actually seeking counsel as to why they failed so drastically. We have seen how the upper echelon of the IDF is trying to appoint their successors amidst the war to ensure that no government committee will ever be able to investigate the failures of October 7th.

After hearing Goldfus’s speech, I recalled how my brigade commander said several times during the war that he hoped he is worthy of being our commander. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. Another nice sentence in a motivational speech. But in light of Goldfuss’s words, it was my brigade commander who understood his role and the need to merit the trust of his soldiers, while Goldfuss did not.

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1 comments on the article

  1. Excellent. Needed to be said. The generals cannot fathom the depth of their 50 and 30 and 10 and 5 and 1 years of cynical dereliction of duty.