IDF assessing plans to counter possible Cairo threat

Considerations come in light of likely Muslim Brotherhood victory in Egyptian elections; plan would reestablish units dismantled seven years ago.

December 28, 2011 05:57
2 minute read.
IDF soldiers in the Mefalsim area of southern Israel.

IDF soldiers tank Mefalsim area_311. (photo credit: Reuters)


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A debate is raging within the IDF regarding the so-called inflection point when it will need to begin establishing new formations and procuring new platforms to counter a future threat from Egypt.

The current assessment within the IDF is that Egypt will, for the coming years, retain the peace treaty with Israel due to its need for continued financial and military assistance from the United States.

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Nevertheless, there is concern within the military over two different scenarios involving the deployment of Egyptian military forces into the Sinai Peninsula, which is supposed to be demilitarized under the 1979 peace treaty.

The first scenario involves an Egyptian decision to deploy troops there for training. The second scenario sees the movement of an Egyptian division into the peninsula, on the sidelines of a future Israeli war with Hezbollah or Syria, as a demonstration of unity with the Arab countries.

“In both cases, Israel will be in a quandary regarding what to do,” a senior defense official explained recently. “On the one hand, no Israeli prime minister will go to war with Egypt over such violations but on the other hand, if we don’t respond then we are turning a blind eye to the violation.”

As a result, the IDF Planning Directorate has recommended that a Muslim Brotherhood victory in the ongoing Egyptian elections serve as the cutoff line for when the military should begin establishing long-lead items – such as new divisions and combat squadrons.

“These are formations that take a number of years to create, and that is why we will need to begin working on them sooner rather than later,” a senior IDF officer explained.

Shortly after taking up his post in February, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz decided to take a cautious approach visa- vis Egypt and not recommend the implementation of an immediate procurement plan aimed at establishing new units.

This was done with the understanding that even if the Muslim Brotherhood takes over in upcoming elections, it will still take some time before Egypt threatens Israel again as it did in the days leading up to the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

For that reason, the past year has been devoted mostly to learning about Egypt, dusting off old maps and preparing conceptually for the future.

Now, however, with a Muslim Brotherhood victory appearing to be quite clear, one possibility under growing consideration is to reestablish units that the IDF dismantled seven years ago.

The main obstacle to all of these plans is the shortage of funds.

While Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has apparently decided not to cut the defense budget for the coming year, the decision to establish new formations would require a major financial investment, which the country does not appear to be prepared to make.

The IDF’s NIS 42 billion budget – under which the IDF formulated its new multi-year plan called Halamish – does not include preparations for a confrontation with Egypt, which would require the country to invest billions of additional shekels.

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