Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon 370.
(photo credit: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry spokesman)
Conventional warfare waged between armies, last seen by Israel in the Yom Kippur
War, has become less relevant for the IDF, and upcoming reforms will help the
military adapt to the changing nature of combat, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon
said on Thursday.
“We are not enslaved to technology – we are using it
and adapting it to the new reality wherein the army vs army conflicts that we
last saw 40 years ago in the Yom Kippur War are becoming less and less
relevant,” he said.
Ya’alon’s comments came a day after the IDF announced
a series of cost-cutting measures for the coming five years meant to save
several billion shekels. The cuts, which still need to be approved by the
cabinet, include firing 3,000 to 5,000 career soldiers and downsizing and
closing flight squadrons, armored and artillery units, and naval
The defense minister said the reforms “will help fighters
operate with greater efficiency, while at the same time exploiting their human
and technological advantages that will allow them to achieve victory in battle
swiftly and decisively.”
“Due to the changing threats around us and the
capabilities that the IDF has developed, we have concluded that we must lead a
meaningful reform and not one that shall enslave the future for the sake of the
present,” he said.
Ya’alon emphasized the push for hi-tech, sophisticated
“The foreseeable future is leading us to battles which will be
determined by superior IDF technology, in the air, land and sea, with less heavy
tools and through more and increasing use of sophisticated and unmanned
technology which give us a significant advantage over any enemy,” he
The military will continue to work to preserve its technological
advantages in the region, largely by focusing on the “building blocks” of this
approach – precision ammunition, cyber-defense, communication and intelligence,
We stand before “a revolutionary multi-year plan, and within a
few years we will see a different IDF,” Ya’alon said.
Avi Benayahu, the former IDF spokesman, said the proposed cuts weren’t brought
on by the shortcomings in the state budget or pressure from the Finance
Ministry, rather that they were planned years ago, and focused on threats Israel
expects to face and changes in the region over the coming 10 years.
Israel today, “there isn’t an enemy that you can see through binoculars on the
horizon,” Benayahu said, adding that while the situations in Egypt and Syria are
both dangerous, there is little likelihood that Israel will be facing a
conventional war with a conventional army on any of its borders.
conventional threat is no longer relevant anymore. We have three main threats –
Hezbollah, Hamas and the terror in Sinai. These are things that can alter our
lives but not threaten our lives,” he said.
Israel also faces the
long-range threat posed by Iran and the threats of delegitimization and
cyber-warfare, Benayahu said. None of these is dealt with by conventional
warfare, he said.
Dr. Eitan Shamir of Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat
Center for Strategic Studies, the former head of the National Security Doctrine
Department in the Strategic Affairs Ministry, said of the cuts, “The question is
what the army intends to do – if it’s some sort of facade where they scream
about cuts in order to scare the public, saying that they won’t be able to
provide security or if it’s really a deep process of changing the army, which
would be an opportunity to better match the army to today’s
While the IDF is technologically and tactically advanced, it’s
very conservative in terms of doctrine and structure, and it’s “obvious to
anyone who has spent time around the army that there is a lot of waste and fat
to be trimmed,” Shamir said.
He spoke of eliminating some of the older,
less-advanced tank units that can’t face the anti-tank missiles that plagued the
IDF during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, and other platforms more suited to an
older style of warfare.
That said, cuts must be balanced, so that the IDF
doesn’t find itself unable to deal with extreme scenarios, such as a multi-front
war on the northern and southern borders, he said.
“There’s an old saying
by Winston Churchill – ‘Gentlemen, we’ve run out of money. Therefore we need to
start to think’ – I hope this is what they’re doing and it’s in a real and deep
way, but only time will tell,” Shamir said.