Air Force exercise 311.
(photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
The most recent battle in the cabinet over the defense budget ended in a typical
compromise: The Finance Ministry was able, after many years of fruitless
attempts, to get the Defense Ministry to agree to effective mechanisms of
transparency and control.
For its part, the Defense Ministry prevented
the adoption of a recommendation from the Trajtenberg Committee to impose
significant cuts and divert resources to the social sphere – such as free
education for children aged three and four. But the essential question has not
yet been answered: Is the current defense budget enough to meet the growing
strategic threats to Israel in a variety of arenas? My answer to that question
is clear: There is a definite need to increase the military budget, in a way
that will reflect the dramatic changes that have occurred in the Middle East
since July 2007, when the cabinet approved the recommendation of the Brodet
Committee regarding the defense budget.
In the first half of 2007, when
the Brodet Report was formulated, the US still dominated in Iraq; Iran had not
yet made a technological breakthrough toward a nuclear weapons capability; the
Lebanese government was tied to the West and did not hide its disapproval of
Iran and Hezbollah; Egypt was an island of stability and its policy orientation
was pro-American; the Sinai Peninsula did not pose a challenge to Israel in the
fields of intelligence or operations; and the Gaza Strip was ruled by the
Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas.
Only five years have passed,
and the trend has reversed. The US military withdrawal from Iraq paved the way
to a massive struggle for the control of the country.
From this chaos,
Iran’s “dhimmis” may emerge as winners, and Israel may find itself again facing
threats from the east. Preparing for this development requires a significant
investment of resources.
Regarding the nuclear issue, Iran currently has
enough enriched uranium to enable it to assemble a number of nuclear warheads in
a short period, once it decides to enrich the material in its hands to the level
required for a bomb.
From now on, its status will be similar to that of
North Korea; as the latter obtained nuclear weapons, it acquired immunity from
military action. In the meantime, Iran is avoiding a collision course, but the
activities currently taking place at the previously secret site in Fordo, near
the holy city of Qom, are evidence of Iran’s determination.
sanctions will not divert Tehran from its quest for nuclear weapons, and
assuming that the US will not initiate an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities,
the ultimate dilemma could land in the lap of the Israeli leadership.
decision Israels’ leaders make, whether accepting a nuclear Iran or taking
aggressive action, could exact a high economic price.
The developments in
Lebanon reflect a significant deterioration in the possible scenarios for
conflict in the north. Sa’ad Hariri has been exiled from his country and the
prime minister who took his place, Najib Mikati, takes his orders from
Hezbollah. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah and his allies have a direct
influence on the army and on the Lebanese security forces. The likelihood of
finding ourselves in a conflict with Hezbollah and facing the Lebanese Army
confronting us is very high.
Although it is not a large army, and it is
neither experienced nor well-equipped, this scenario had not appeared in the
IDF’s northern front drills for decades.
This directly affects the forces
we would have to assign for this battle, the number of days the conflict could
last, and many other factors, all of which have financial
The developments in Egypt also pose a security challenge,
one that Israel has not seen since Anwar Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem 35 years
ago. Although it is too early to assess the implications of the victory of the
Islamic movement in parliamentary elections on the future of the peace
agreement, Israel should view the dramatic turn of events in Egypt as a
strategic warning of the potential for a new conflict on the southern front.
This requires fundamental changes in Israel’s military buildup, in its
intelligence gathering and in the preparedness of the army for a scenario of
hostilities between the countries. All these measures have huge financial
implications which have been avoided since the ’70s.
And we haven’t yet
mentioned the transformation of the Sinai Peninsula into a terrorist stronghold;
the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip; the deterioration of our relations with
Turkey; the weakening of the US position in our region; the difficulty in
predicting the significance of the revolt against the Assad regime in Syria; and
the possibility of “Islamic Spring” uprisings in Jordan and Saudi
Responsible leadership must draw the necessary conclusions from
the picture that is emerging. This leadership must ensure that the army will
have welltrained and -equipped forces when the day comes. We have to continue
investing in research and development to maintain our qualitative edge, our
longdistance capabilities, our advanced weapons and strategic systems.
have to invest all that is necessary in the construction of a multi-layered
defense system for Israel’s citizens on the home front. The Treasury’s efforts
to enforce increasing transparency and efficiency in the army are welcome and
worthy, but they must be accompanied by a realistic understanding of the new
Middle East.This article was translated from the Hebrew by Moria
Dashevsky. The writer is a former chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and