Is Israel’s Military Ready for Future Challenges?

In a detailed study of the Israel Defense Force’s size, structure, and capabilities, Kenneth Brower traces its development from the underequipped fledgling army of 1948 to the technologically sophisticated and much-feared military of today. But, Brower argues, in the past decade the IDF has become too focused on counterterrorism and urban warfare and too reliant on defensive, high-tech systems—like its Iron Dome air defenses—at the expense of conventional capabilities, and it thus may not be ready for the what lies ahead:

It seems evident that the IDF general staff believes that Israel does not currently face the immediate threat of large-scale conventional warfare with its Arab neighbors but rather the threat of limited warfare by non-state actors in the Palestinian-controlled territories and the neighboring states. . . . It is also obvious that the general staff has concluded that Israel must maintain a significant capability to strike remote enemy states and non-state groups. . . .

As a result of meeting [such] near-term priorities on a limited budget, the general staff has significantly downsized the order of battle of its armored corps and tube artillery and reduced training in large-scale maneuver warfare. It has also unacceptably reduced the combat readiness of its reserve ground units. Unfortunately, what the general staff has done today to meet current priorities will inevitably and irretrievably impact the Israeli . . . order of battle and military capability for up to two decades from now.

No one can possibly predict the future threats that Israel might then face. Some of today’s Arab “friends” will almost certainly face political upheaval and become tomorrow’s enemies. Moreover, Israel today enjoys decisive technological superiority because of its unique ability to exploit evolving digital technology; but there is no assurance of its ability continuously to achieve such superiority in the future. In fact, what the IDF can uniquely deploy today will surely be readily available from the future international arms bazaar.

This [problem] is compounded by the huge procurements by the rich Arab Persian Gulf regimes, which are many times larger than the current annual IDF procurement budget. What fires east can just as easily fire west. A missile system that can intercept Iranian ballistic missiles can also intercept Israeli ballistic missiles. Because of these massive Arab investments in advanced technology, it is doubtful that Israel can continue to sustain it current advantage of overwhelming technological superiority.

[In other words], the Israeli general staff may well have inappropriately overadjusted its priorities to reflect what exists today but which will almost certainly no longer be the case tomorrow. Most importantly, it has simultaneously neglected preparations for large-scale offensive maneuver warfare that might be necessary in the future. The impact of the general staff’s mistakes has been magnified by the decisions of the Israeli political leadership. Their [desire] to construct expensive, brittle border fences and to prioritize ground-based air-defense systems are, no doubt, politically popular, but may well represent a huge misallocation of Israel’s limited financial resources. . . . High-readiness offensively oriented ground forces can be a far better deterrent than . . . fences and air-defense systems that can easily be saturated and that are catastrophically vulnerable to the weapons of the future.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at BESA Center

More about: IDF, Israel & Zionism, Israeli grand strategy, Israeli Security

 

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war