The IDF must assume its most severe “reference scenarios” regarding Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic State will come true, in order to correctly use the coming years to reshape the military, improve training, and make cost-cutting reforms, a senior military official said as he revealed a multi-year plan aimed at doing just that.
Military planners, led by new IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, have spent four years drawing up the Gideon Plan, which calls for significantly increasing the power of wartime multi-arena combat divisions; restructuring the army to create specialized brigades and battalions that focus exclusively on border security and leave the main fighting to the divisions; and improving weapons and training.
The plan was disclosed on Monday ahead of the scheduled publication Tuesday of the findings of the Locker Commission on the defense budget. It is expected to call on the IDF to reduce itself in size by a third – a recommendation defense sources described as being completely out of tune with Israel’s security environment.
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“Iran will be a central challenge for the IDF during this time,” the official said. “It will be a mission for Military Intelligence to [continue] monitoring intelligence and [providing] alerts. The intelligence will focus on Iranian [nuclear] efforts and [the regional] influence.”
No one within the defense establishment thinks Iran has given up on its vision of reaching a nuclear capability in the future, he added.
“The working assumption is that they [the Iranians] will try in the near future... to go for a basic [nuclear] capability. The assumption is that there will be an Iranian pattern of action in the covert [nuclear] channel,” he said.
Furthermore, he said, “There’s no doubt that lifting the sanctions will enable Iran to activate its influence in the region in a discernible and significant manner, more so than today,” indicating that Iran is currently spending $4 billion-$5b. on its proxies and clients.
“The restraint for Iranian activities on the other side of our borders comes from economic limitations. There’s no doubt that lifting the sanctions will lead to an increase in Iranian influence and terrorism,” he added.
Despite international bans on Iranian arms trafficking, he said, Tehran “does this all the time, and they will continue to do it in the future in Syria, Lebanon, and to other elements.”
This, alongside the collapse of the old order in the Middle East, the “galloping forward” of Islamic State in Syria, Sinai, and Gaza, and ongoing threats by Hezbollah and Hamas, form the basis of the Gideon Plan.
“Hezbollah is the most significant enemy in our first circle,” the official said, using a term to refer to the countries that border Israel. “Hezbollah has 100,000 rockets, although it is in the most difficult crisis point since its founding. It lost 1,300 fighters in Syria, and sustained more than 5,000 injuries,” he said.
Meanwhile, he continued, the IDF is trying to limit Hamas in both the West Bank and Gaza. “Our required achievement is to be able to go war, while preventing any ground-based or aerial territorial achievements for our enemies and minimizing the enemy’s achievement in the realm of projectile fire on Israel,” he said.
Israel’s ability to launch strikes on its enemies’ rocket and missile bases has grown “100 fold” in the past nine years, he said, but stressed that all of these capabilities “cost money.”
The Gideon Plan would be based on a multi-year spending commitment of NIS 61b.to NIS 64b. and would include the elimination of 100,000 reservists and 5,000 career soldiers, as well as cuts to reserve artillery-support units and reserve battalions.
“Those [reservists] who are left will be better trained, equipped, and ready for war,” said the official. “The same is true of [reforms to] quality platforms in the air, sea, and on the ground.”
Under a new model planned for career soldiers, they will be like brigade and battalion commanders – younger and fewer.
According to the IDF’s calculation, it saves a billion shekels in salaries and pensions per 1,000 retired career soldiers.
“We want to set up a school for command and control and decrease officers. We have already cut four major-generals. For every four to five majors, there will be one lieutenant- colonel,” said the official.
“We want to make cuts across all things not connected to combat: education, the IDF Chaplaincy Corps, Army Radio, the censorship division, the women’s adviser’s department, the reserves department, and the C4i Corps,” he added.
The result, he said, will be a smaller military, but one that is better prepared, equipped, and trained.
He also expressed doubts about the Locker Commission report, which calls for providing military pensions only to combat personnel from the level of battalion commander and higher.
“To intercept an [Iranian arms smuggling ship like the] Klos C doesn’t take 20 personnel, it takes thousands of people working around the clock, including non-combat personnel. To say that only battalion commanders or air force squadrons should receive pensions is a joke,” the official said.
According to the Gideon Plan, only one of 10 career soldiers will remain in the military long enough to receive a pension.