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Israel and the future of war: a small and smart army

Before the leaders of the Israeli army proposed the plan to the political leaders to change the structure of the army and return to the concept of a "small and smart army", it had already begun implementing the plan before it was approved. According to the Israeli press, the army informed the members of one of the air squadrons that they intended to reduce that their service had ended, which is evidenced to some extent by the independence of the military within the general framework.

Israeli military sources confirmed that the army had originally exercised independence in the matter of arms in what has become known as multi-year plans, the latest of which is plan "Oz", which is already being implemented before its approval by the government.

In any case, the plan to change the structure of the Israeli army, by making serious cuts over the next five years to reduce costs by about NIS 26 billion, is considered the largest and most important plan in the history of this army. As previously published, the plan requires abandoning about three aircraft squadrons, several warships, a group of reserve troops, and several armoured units. Military circles recognize that change mainly stems from the need to adapt to two important aspects; first, the budget cuts and second, a change in the map of risks faced by the Jewish state.

The plan for change, approved by the High Command of the Army and which will be presented next week to the Ministerial Council for approval, provides for a structural change of the army during the next three years by reducing its size, especially its armoured forces, several of its air squadrons and a number of its military ships. However, it seems, according to what has been published so far, that the army will dismiss three to five thousand members of the regular forces, and will also dismantle a reserve band, and artillery and logistic units.

Israeli Defence Minister, General Moshe Yaalon, stated yesterday that "budget strains for the years 2013-2014 have forced the army to take measures such as affecting exercises and operational activity for reserve forces". He added that "we are careful not to affect the growing strength in the long- term by taking risks in the short-term".

He also said that "these measures are being carried out responsibly and cautiously, and includes investment in means of combat and military systems that will help the army to continue to maintain a significant technological gap over the surrounding countries and organizations." He stressed that the future battlefield will be resolved only through technological superiority and added, "We will continue to invest in precise arms, intelligence, tapping, effective defence and snipers, based on the understanding that current and future battlefields are completely different from everything we have known in the past. Moreover, the foreseeable future can lead us to a confrontation that will be resolved by the technological superiority of the Israeli army in the air, sea and on land with fewer vehicles."

On his part, the military commentator for the "Israel today" newspaper, Yoav Limor, in his article entitled "A new army fit for our threats", stated that the path followed by the army leaders in the current circumstances "paves the way for a new army that is more suitable for the battles it needs to face. The rapid dismantlement of the Arab armies greatly reduced the possibility of conventional warfare, and therefore, a large number of aircraft, tanks and old cannons which have a high cost but low feasibility can be gotten rid of."

Limor also pointed out that those observing the situation note that the intelligence and air force survived the cut. Reducing swarms had been planned for years because nowadays, one modern aircraft could do the work of several old planes. As for the intelligence, which has become the master of the modern battlefield, it is now able to resolve battles at the right moments.

In turn, a military commentator for "Yedioth Ahronoth", Alex Fishman, believes that the army being built now is the army of the next war. He wrote that this current modernization or reduction plan that has been worked on for two years by Chief of Staff General Benny Gantz is, in essence, closer to the method followed by the Americans in the second Gulf War, called "shock and awe".

This method is based on the idea of maximum use of arms from the first moment in order to crush the targets by land, sea and air with advanced weapons, followed by a fast and powerful ground manoeuvre to resolve the battle in the shortest period possible.

Fishman noted that the new plan requires the rehabilitation of the Special Forces for different tasks, as the army will replace three types of teams; those concerned with the protection of different fronts, reserve groups and light groups able to manoeuvre inside enemy territory. All this means that the army will become smaller, will give up its armoured forces and will improve the performance of whatever remains in service.

The author is a Palestinian writer. This article is a translation of the Arabic text published in As Safir on 12 July, 2013

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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