The IDF must prepare for the possibility of a direct confrontation with Iran in 10 to 15 years, after the nuclear deal with the West expires, or another conflict much sooner with Hamas in Gaza, a senior source in the IDF’s Planning Directorate said on Wednesday.
The Gideon multi-year working plan (named for an earlier campaign by the Prophet Gideon in the Book of Judges), as approved by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, seeks to place war readiness and training at the heart of the IDF’s activities, as well as ensuring a sufficient supply of ammunition, fuel, and preparations for a range of potential conflicts.
The process has been aided by the fact that the IDF no longer has to plan for engaging Iran’s nuclear program in the immediate future.
The source stressed, however, that the IDF’s military force buildup would from now on be based on “capabilities, not on one specific scenario,” or a specific threat, an approach better suited to the unpredictable region surrounding Israel.
The Gideon plan seeks to ensure that “people [running the IDF] won’t say, in 10 years, that the military has wasted its time,” the source said.
The blueprint’s parameters show how senior IDF commanders, though busy coping with Palestinian terrorism on a daily basis, are thinking ahead and assessing longer-term regional threats.
They address threats posed by the growth of hybrid terrorist- guerrilla forces on Israel’s borders, the collapse of several regional states, the arms race raging among Middle Eastern countries that have thus far survived the latest chaos of uprisings in the region, and the growth of precision-guided firepower in Hezbollah’s weapons stockpiles, which underline the vulnerability of Israeli strategic sites.
Iran’s military industries are set to grow dramatically in the coming decade with the lifting of economic sanctions, and some weapons that roll off Iranian mass production lines will find their way to Tehran’s proxies in the region, particularly, Hezbollah, the source said.
Civil nuclear power programs have meanwhile also been launched in neighboring Arab countries, pointing to a potential Arab nuclear arms race with Iran in the future.
“Our strategic depth is shrinking,” said the source.
The Gideon plan, which awaits cabinet approval in the coming weeks, would institute a set of far-reaching reforms in the IDF, aimed at making it more efficient, flexible, and adaptable to emerging threats.
Budgetary fluctuations in the IDF taking place due to a vacuum left by the absence of a long-term work plan have been destructive and were a motive behind the creation of the Gideon plan, the source said.
The plan’s central aim is to prioritize the goal of war readiness and training, at the expense of future acquisitions. This means keeping ammunition warehouses and spare parts full, and maintaining a full combat training program, the source said.
“Today, our ammunition stockpiles are better than they were before Operation Protective Edge [in 2014],” the source said.
“The Ground Forces Training Center [in Tzelim, in the Negev] has seen a crazy rate of training in 2015, and this will continue,” the source also said.
Additionally, the plan will seek to develop further inter-branch connectivity, promote the IDF command and control network that can connect a fighter jet pilot with a tank crew.
The plan calls for making structural changes to eliminate duplicate, wasteful activities, such as by merging the Ground Forces with the Technological and Logistics Branch.
The plan would shrink the General Staff by 11 percent, and 40,000 career officers would be let go by 2017.
The General Staff will distribute its budgetary control powers to the IDF’s three branches, allowing greater flexibility, the source said.
In 2016, the IDF will unveil its Cyber Defense Branch, which will be separated from Military Intelligence Unit 8200, and the Israel Air Force will begin receiving its first F-35A stealth fighter jet squadron.
The planning also calls for the Israel Navy to settle for five rather than six submarines.
The Home Front Command will shut its Jerusalem district, and two reserve artillery battalions, whose equipment is too old to maintain, will also be closed.
The plan also calls for reducing the size of the IDF Beduin tracking units after an investment of hundreds of millions of shekels in border sensor technology, pending cabinet approval of the Gideon plan.
“We are carrying out continuous, daily security missions – but we have to plan ahead,” the source said.