A soldier from the newly established Flame of Fire brigade during a live-fire drill in southern Israel last week..
(photo credit: IDF)
As the Middle East continues to roil from bloody conflicts, a senior IDF officer told reporters on Wednesday that the military is concerned that the Trump administration will cut Israel’s security assistance budget.
According to the senior officer speaking to reporters in Tel Aviv, additional budget cuts by the Trump administration will further burden the Israeli defense budget, despite the 10-year, $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding recently signed between Jerusalem and Washington.
In 2016, the IDF concluded the first year of its multiyear Gideon plan, implemented last year after four years of work by military planners led by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen.
Gadi Eisenkot. The plan will see the restructuring of the army by eliminating thousands of reservists and career soldiers, saving billions of shekels in salaries and pensions.
The expected result, according to senior officers, would be a smaller, better prepared, more equipped and trained army.
According to the senior officer, non conventional weapons continue to pose a major risk to Israel. Last week Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman made a rare admission following reports of a strike against Syrian and Hezbollah targets near Damascus, saying that Israel “will not allow the smuggling of sophisticated weapons or chemical weapons from Syria to Lebanon for Hezbollah.”
The military buildup in the Middle East is a problem, the senior IDF officer said.
“We see arms deals totaling $200b. in weapons in the Middle East. Accurate weapons threaten us the most, and our enemies understand that.
We are a small country with a lot of strategic targets and that is clear to everyone.”
On Israel’s northern border, Russia has recently deployed the advanced S300 and S400 anti-aircraft missile systems to Syria, which also has SA18 and SA17 portable anti-aircraft systems. And to the south, Egypt acquired its first Type-209/1400 submarine from Germany, a Mistral-class helicopter aircraft from France, and has also signed a deal with France to buy 24 Rafale fighter jets, marking the first time in history that France has sold fighter aircraft to another state.
But the IDF does not foresee any conflict on the borders.
And the hope in the defense establishment would be to push the next conflict to as far in the future as possible in order to increase its strength.
The IDF in the past year has placed great emphasis on training exercises, according to the senior officer.
“We need to take control of it and I hope that that will happen,” he added.
But non-conventional armies with increased firepower pose a threat as well.
“There is competition for regional influence along with the acquisition of more and more weapons,” the officer said.
According to the officer, Israel is the first country to encounter new threats such as unconventional armies, pointing to the wave of violence to hit Israel and the West Bank since last October, and change its tactics to counter it.
Other countries such as the United States and European countries look to Israel to learn how to deal with threats such as “lone wolf” attacks, border security and cyber protection, he said.
Israel is not just preparing for the next few years, but far in the future as it is finding itself more and more in between wars, the senior officer said, adding that the army is moving more from planning based on scenarios to planning based on capabilities.
“In the past, the IDF said that either they were preparing to go to war or were at war,” he said. “Today it is no longer relevant; it is not enough. Today one must initiate.
When our deterrence is stronger, we push the enemy back, and we scale back the next war.”