(photo credit: REUTERS)
New IDF Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Gadi Eisenkot will have more than his fair share of work in the next four years.
As he assumes the commander’s seat and surveys the rapidly changing arenas that surround Israel, Eisenkot will see a region that is falling apart, but in which familiar enemies remain, building up their attack capabilities for the next conflict.
From the outgoing chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. (res.) Benny Gantz, Eisenkot has received a military that is more integrated, flexible, and hi-tech, and which enjoys more intelligence than ever before.
Military Intelligence collects tens of millions of pieces of data on Israel’s enemies every single day. Some of this information is used to build target banks, for when war next breaks out. Some is used to conduct daring, covert operations behind enemy lines, which remain classified and unknown to the media and the public.
Yet some of the most immediate challenges facing Israeli security cannot be thwarted with the help of intelligence.
These include the tense powder keg that is the West Bank, which is becoming more explosive by the day.
Should a third intifada break out, it will likely be characterized by unorganized mass violence that cannot be prevented by intelligence.
Such a development could come by the spring, due to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s diplomatic offensive against Israel, now under way internationally.
This offensive could spread from the diplomatic arena to the territories in very little time.
Elsewhere, however, the intelligence being gathered by the IDF will prove pivotal: against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon; Hamas in Gaza; and potentially, further in the future, against Iran, which poses a double challenge: its nuclear program and its regional proxy terrorism network.
Hezbollah’s rocket and missile arsenal of 150,000 projectiles has no known parallel, according to Gantz, who earlier this year challenged an audience to show him “four to five countries that have what Hezbollah has” in terms of a projectile stockpile, adding, “you won’t.”
In Gaza too, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are quickly replenishing their rocket supplies, and work on tunnels has begun in earnest.
Global jihadi elements like al-Qaida and Islamic State are filling vacuums in Syria and the Sinai Peninsula.
Gantz has spent four years poring over these threats and restructuring the IDF to adapt to them. His efforts have seen the rise of a territorial division on the Golan Heights that specializes in dealing with the hidden threats in Syria’s chaos. They also led to a more autonomous Southern Command that is better prepared for the myriad threats developing in the Strip.
Additionally, thanks to new networks of digital command and control systems, the air force, ground forces, and navy now cooperate more than ever, and are able to share target data.
This allows for accurate firepower to be deployed in ways that may have been considered science fiction not long ago.
But much work remains. The IDF’s ability to cope with rocket fire without a large-scale ground maneuver remains limited to an unsatisfactory degree.
As Iran and the US continue to negotiate over Tehran’s nuclear program, it is fair to assume that Gantz fostered the IDF’s longrange strike capability.
On Monday, Gantz issued a veiled warning to the government during his farewell speech, saying, “In the hour that we will have to turn our eyes to farther challenges, it is important to remember, at the same time, to extend our hands to allies, to create fields of interest that promote solutions, and which can ensure that our nation does not dwell alone.”
He remained deliberately vague and did not name those allies, but it seems reasonable to believe that Gantz hinted at the need to safeguard the strategic alliance with the US, to avoid international isolation, and to make more of an effort to reach diplomatic progress with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.