Warning that there is a significant chance of war with Syria and Hizbullah, and that Iran will become nuclear in 2007, a high-ranking IDF officer said Wednesday the defense budget is NIS 8 billion short of the amount needed to effectively deal with such critical threats. According to the IDF strategic assessment for 2007, Iran will master nuclear technology and obtain independent research and development capabilities by the end of the year. Iran is expected to announce that it has crossed the nuclear threshold in March, which corresponds with the Iranian new year. However, the IDF says that that announcement would be premature. In addition, according to the assessment, "the axis of evil in the region is gaining strength, and global jihad elements are moving into the region."
Burning Issues No. 19: 2007 forecast
The assessment also includes the growing possibility of a conflict with Syria and another confrontation with Hizbullah in Lebanon.
As a result, the IDF work plan for the coming year calls for increasing training in infantry and armored units, developing technology that can deal with new strategic threats, and updating the IDF battle doctrine that was found to have been faulty during the war in Lebanon last summer.
The current IDF budget, part of the NIS 295.4 billion state budget passed last week, stands at NIS 34.7 billion, after a request for an increase of NIS 3.5b. was rejected by the Finance Ministry and the government. This week, another NIS 280 million were also cut from the defense budget.
"This work plan and budget is the best of the worst," said the high-ranking officer, who added that he was "gravely concerned that there was not enough investment in technologies and in developing means to deal with future long-term threats to Israel."
According to the officer: "The defense budget is decreasing while the trend in the region is to increase defense spending."
As an example, the officer mentioned that a system to intercept short-range Katyusha and Kassam rockets was not included in the IDF work plan for 2007, due to a lack of funds. This was despite repeated announcements by Defense Minister Amir Peretz that the development of such a system would begin in the coming month.
As a result of a lack of funds, the IDF will not be purchasing new naval vessels, aircraft, and other military platforms it had initially planned to purchase during the coming year. According to the officer, military intelligence is missing NIS 0.5b. needed to reach the necessary level of effectiveness.
"We are not developing systems at the rate that I would like to see them developed in face of our current threats," the officer said.
The officer also referred to changes that he said were necessary in the IDF's battle doctrine. By the end of the year, he said, the IDF will have formulated a new doctrine. "We learned from the war that the operational codes were not properly absorbed by the ground forces," the officer said. "There was not clarity in the orders and it caused confusion."
According to the officer, 75 percent of reservists will be called up for duty in 2007. In addition, infantry and armored brigades will be allocated three months during the year for training. IDF officers will also be sent to a special course before becoming division commanders.
Referring to the lessons drawn from the internal military probes of the war, the officer said that Military Intelligence will undergo a "cultural and organic change" in 2007. Field Intelligence will be combined with MI, which will undergo internal changes to enable the branch to better facilitate ground force's intelligence needs.