Senior IDF officers meet to discuss the region post-coronavirus

Two day conference will see General Staff and 30 Brigadier Generals strategize on how the pandemic will affect hostile countries and the IDF's preparedness

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi visits Bnei Brak (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi visits Bnei Brak
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi will meet with top military officers over the coming two days to discuss and strategize the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on countries in the Middle East and how it relates to Israel’s security.
According to a report by Walla News and confirmed to The Jerusalem Post, the General Staff and 30 officers holding the rank of brigadier general from the Air Force, Navy and other corps gathered for a two-day long conference to discuss changes to hostile states and terror organizations as well as the IDF’s preparedness.
Due to health ministry regulations, the conference is taking part in several rooms with officers keeping distance from one another.
Officers on Monday heard from senior experts specializing in economics and health, and discussed the return to a sort of normalcy while still contending with the virus, as well as global trends following the pandemic and the possibility that the second wave of the virus would have a more severe economic impact than the first.
Head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate Maj.-Gen. Tamir Heyman will also give a lecture about regional issues, and the targeted killing of Qassem Soleimani in January will be a central part of the discussions.  Officers will also discuss the Russian and Iranian presence in Syria and political changes in the region.
On the conference’s second day, the senior officers will divide into various groups and submit recommendations to Kochavi on how the military can best prepare for future challenges in various sectors. The chief of staff will then release a new strategic framework for the military.
Though the first wave of the coronavirus seems to have passed, authorities are now dealing with questions about the day after and the economic crises which will follow it.
During the height of the crisis, the IDF recognized a decrease in hostile enemy activity targeting Israel including with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, where it has been the quietest in years.
In an attempt to curb the spread of the deadly virus, Israel has been working with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and has transferred numerous pieces of coronavirus equipment into the region and the blockaded coastal enclave.
That aid has led officials to believe that there will be a decrease in attacks by Palestinians against Israelis. But, should the economic crisis deepen and the humanitarian situation worsen, that could easily change.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, Israel and Hamas are said to also be in advanced discussions regarding a prisoner exchange for the remains of missing IDF soldiers Lt. Hadar Goldin and St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul and the two citizens Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, both suffering from mental health issues.
Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate has also found that the pandemic will have a direct impact on the financing and arming of terror groups throughout the region, including Lebanese Hezbollah, which relies heavily on Iranian funds and support.
With thousands of protesters having taken to the streets several times over the past year – initially caused by an increase in fuel prices followed by the downing of the Ukrainian airliner – Iran has been under significant internal pressure. The regime of Ayatollah Khamenei has had a hard time keeping everything under control.
The virus is taking a hard toll on the Islamic Republic, killing thousands of people including high ranking regime and military officials.  And while Tehran has reported some 6,203 fatalities, Israeli officials believe the number is significantly higher.
Despite the additional pressure felt by Iran because of the coronavirus crisis, the regime has not  changed its priorities such as regional hegemony and its nuclear program; there has only been a momentary pause, which has since ended.
According to sources in Syria, Iran has used the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to smuggle more weapons into the war-torn country. In response, dozens of airstrikes targeting infrastructure belonging to Iran and its proxies including Lebanese Hezbollah have been blamed on Israel in the past two months, including a rare daytime strike in Syria’s Homs province last week.
The coronavirus comes on the heels of the decade of the Arab Spring, which led to political and economic instability as well as over 10 million refugees fleeing war only to find themselves living in poor conditions in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
Lebanese citizens, who prior to the pandemic had been in the streets nightly protesting their country’s economic downturn, have already started to return to the streets to protest the deepening crisis. The protests in Lebanon have made it so that the military has focused more attention on Israel’s neighbor to the North.
Governments and international institutions have begun to raise concerns regarding the growing constraints on access to food around the world. While there are enough staples in global stocks, the economic damage caused by the virus – with millions unable to work and earn money – has caused the pressure to mount, especially in the Middle East.
Increased attacks by global terror groups have also increased, with attacks being carried out by al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group and the Taliban across the Middle East and Africa, including in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula.
According to the report by Walla News, the next government may cut the defense budget in order to focus and invest on civilian areas, in an attempt to get ahead of the second coronavirus wave. Since there is still no state budget, the IDF is operating monthly on the basis of the 2019 budget divided by 12.