Israel’s Navy Comes into Its Own

November 5, 2020 | Eitan Shamir
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Historically, the Jewish state—threatened with invasion from north, south, and east—worried least about its western, maritime border. As a result, the navy received less attention from the government than the ground and air forces. Eitan Shamir argues that, with changing military and diplomatic realities, it is time to reassess:

Despite its inferiority in size and resources (and possibly because of it), the Israeli navy proved to be innovative in doctrine and technology. It was the first navy to base itself entirely on missile boats and the first to win a sea battle using them (against Russian-made missile boats in 1973). Throughout its existence, the navy has introduced many innovations and gained considerable operational experience.

The new geostrategic threats that are driving naval force development and doctrinal changes can be divided into [a few] categories. The first is the growing capability of other navies in the region—above all that of Iran, but also countries such as Egypt and Turkey, which could become hostile in certain scenarios. The second has to do with the navy’s recent assignment to protect the huge deposits of natural gas that were discovered in Israel’s [maritime] exclusive economic zone. These rigs are under constant threat of missile attack by Hamas and Hizballah.

The third is the constant and ever-growing threat of barrages of increasingly precise missile attacks by Iran and its proxies in the region. The navy can add strategic depth to Israel’s limited land mass, and its missile boats and submarines can provide [important] redundancy and allow for enhanced capabilities, both offensive and defensive, against missile attacks.

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