Former security chief: Netanyahu right to push for submarines

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon has also slammed Netanyahu for circumventing him in purchasing the submarines.

December 28, 2017 06:15
3 minute read.
Dolphin-class submarine

The Dolphin-class submarine first entered service in 2000. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been right to push to buy more submarines over objections by some in the defense establishment, former National Security Council chief Yaakov Amidror said on Wednesday.

Amidror’s comments at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies conference were of special interest, as the prime minister has been attacked harshly for his interventions regarding acquiring submarines from Germany, and some of his top aides are being criminally probed for possible corruption concerning the transaction.

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Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon has also slammed Netanyahu for circumventing him in purchasing the submarines.
Netanyahu says Israel Naval submarine contract with Germany is only for strengthening security , amid corruption probe , Nov.23.16 (credit: REUTERS)

But Amidror, who is the Anne and Greg Rosshandler Senior Fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, said this has been a regular fight between other prime ministers and the defense establishment, implying that the premiers have had a broader strategic view of the submarines’ role than some in the security establishment.

One area where he said that it had become more important for the navy to project power and provide security regarded Israel’s sea-based natural gas reserves.

Turning to the skies, he said that the “F-35 [fifth-generation combat aircraft] gives the IDF a new capability... like when the Phantom aircraft arrived” decades ago, changing Israel from weak to strong in airpower.

Amidror said the F-35 “cockpits will now have information that in the past could only be found back in headquarters,” suggesting this would “change the way the air force works.”

The former National Security Council chief implied that the fuller picture for pilots would eventually lead air force headquarters to delegate more authority to F-35 pilots to take action where higher level approvals might have been required in the past.

Reviewing a range of other unpredictable issues that could come up in future wars, Amidror said that “drones will have a much bigger impact even than they do” currently, maybe even exceeding major forces driven and piloted by humans. But he implied that how big that impact will be could be one of the largest wild cards.

In the cyber arena, he said that even as the IDF is investing huge resources, neither it nor any other body “knows exactly how to build a complete defense.”

This is even more crucial than in the past because the IDF has become far more networked, such that any hacking of the network or of networked weapons could be a major problem, he said.

Discussing special forces, Amidror said that to date they “have not had a big impact on most wars,” which he called “a big waste of power.”

Left to right: Efraim Inbar, Greg Rosshandler, Yair Golan, Yaakov Amidror and Eran Lerman (Yonah Jeremy Bob)

He expressed hope that now that the number of special forces operators has been increased that they might make a greater contribution in future conflicts.

Moving on to intelligence challenges, he said that Hezbollah now has so many rockets and precision weapons that the intelligence services will have their work cut out for them defending the home front.

Putting the challenge in perspective, he noted that during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, intelligence helped the air force take out much of Hezbollah’s precision arsenal while it as still on the ground.

Even with all of these specific predictions, Amidror said a main point was that “we cannot really answer” what the IDF needs to do to prepare for the next war, because “we don’t know what the next war will” look like.

Still, he projected optimism, saying that Israel no longer faces any conventional army threat, since the only nearby powerful army belongs to Egypt, with which we are at peace.

He pointed out that Israel “is a huge power,” and that even its worst close-by adversary, Hezbollah, at most might be able to rally 50,000-70,000 fighters compared to the millions of enemy soldiers, thousands of tanks and hundreds of aircraft that once threatened the Jewish state.

Noting that Hamas’s forces were “much smaller” even than Hezbollah’s, Amidror said that Israel’s adversaries “have weapons that can hurt us tactically, but are extremely lacking” in terms of posing a broader threat.

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