Three years after Aviv Kochavi took command of the Israeli occupation army, military correspondents and experts are auditing his achievements and failures, and forecasting what we might expect from him in his upcoming fourth and final year as chief of staff. They are reviewing the most prominent challenges in the field that he is expected to face in the time he has left in the army's Kiraya headquarters.
Despite the military hardware accumulated by the occupation army, and its non-stop preparations for fighting on more than one front, Israeli voices are heard occasionally warning of what they call a "disaster" awaiting the Israel Defence Forces. There has been a decline in public confidence in the army's operational capabilities due to the poor calibre of its human resources, and the inability of military technology to compensate for its soldiers' lack of combat readiness.
It is said that frustration is growing even within the armed forces. This coincides with the existential threats facing the occupation state, even as senior officers receive secret messages about the decline in operational capabilities. Arguably the most important aspect is the fact that despite a budget set at 58 billion shekels for this year, the desired results are not achieved; Israel still has no real sense of security. Instead, the figures suggest a corrupt organisation and unethical behaviour within the military infrastructure.
Another dilemma is that the results of discussions, seminars and meetings are not always fed back effectively to troops on the ground. During their training, which generally lasts eight months, soldiers and junior officers do not meet with senior officers, and are not instructed and led properly. Too many senior officers spend too much time desk-bound.
These failures result in problems when trying to upgrade skills, poor discipline and the absence of good role models, which means standards are lower than ever, with corps commanders each applying their own standards according to their own understanding. There is little control or supervision from the top down. Professional skills and knowledge are lacking, and soldiers are increasingly unwilling to be considered for frontline combat roles.
At the same time, it is clear that senior commanders do not want to hear about problems, and don't try to solve them. As a result, their relationship with their soldiers is based on mutual silence. Unreliable reports are now common, talking of successes that did not happen as chaos reigns in unit headquarters. Soldiers' weapons can go for weeks without being checked by senior officers.
Even the plan that Kochavi boasted about has not yet yielded any results. This included the merger of some regular brigades and battalions, upgrading the high capabilities of multi-dimensional combat, operating combat helicopters, gathering intelligence, and using precision artillery, as well as anti-tank, infantry and armoured equipment. However, the facts on the ground reveal that there are problems using the latest equipment due to a lack of training and a huge shortage of professional soldiers.
The Israeli army not only faces logistical and practical problems, but also slack discipline in many battalions. Orders are not followed and there is no oversight by senior officer to make sure that their orders have been followed. Junior officers and soldiers appear to be unconcerned about the repercussions — if any — of not obeying orders. Few show any initiative, and only do what is asked of them, nothing more. Even fewer officers apparently lead by example and help soldiers to carry out their duties. A number of senior Israeli officers now believe that many of the regular battalions may be ready to fight a low-level war, but a large-scale conflict will be a disaster.
The "battle between wars" strategy, especially in Syria, has possibly achieved more of its goals during Kochavi's time as chief of staff. Dozens of operations were carried out in 2019, and their number increased in 2020 and again in 2021, including air attacks on Latakia port within the past few days. As more of these attacks are expected to take place, questions arise about the exact nature of their goals and if they are achieved.
More attacks means that more targets are needed, and if more targets need to be attacked with more personnel and weaponry involved, then it suggests that the enemy is getting stronger, not weaker. That's logical. Moreover, it is important to note that the Israeli air force is concerned that its aircraft are unable to operate freely in Lebanese airspace.
Although the increase in Israeli attacks on Iranian positions in Syria indicates a continuation of the "battle between wars" strategy, it does not lay out the end scenario for this escalation. The launching of precision missiles is capable of getting Israel into difficult situations. The occupation state possesses nuclear weapons, which none of its neighbours have, including Iran, but the latter and its allies are happy to keep Israel weak and confused. That is their strategy, and it seems to be working.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.