Ministers should have asked the right questions before war

Author of Israel's newly-formulated defense doctrine predicted an escalation of low-intensity conflicts.

dan meridor 224.88 (photo credit: Knesset Web site)
dan meridor 224.88
(photo credit: Knesset Web site)
Government ministers, when presented on the eve of war with the military's plan, should have asked the IDF what the chances were of winning the war against Hizbullah and stopping its ability to fire Katyusha rockets at Israel, Dan Meridor, author of Israel's newly-formulated defense doctrine, said Sunday. "The most dramatic and difficult of all decisions is to go to war," Meridor, a former justice and finance minister, told The Jerusalem Post. "You don't do it unless there is a goal that can be obtained through war and you have the means to obtain that goal." In April, a committee Meridor led on formulating a defense doctrine for the State of Israel presented its findings to then-defense minister Shaul Mofaz. The report predicted an escalation of low-intensity conflicts, like the war with Hizbullah, and the use of non-conventional weapons in Middle East warfare. Since April, Meridor, who in 2002 served as a minister in charge of intelligence in Ariel Sharon's government, has also presented the 250-page report to the General Staff, various defense industries and cabinet ministers. The report, Meridor revealed to the Post, rarely used the word "urgent," but it did so when referring to the looming Katyusha threat presented by Hizbullah in southern Lebanon. "The Hizbullah threat in Lebanon demands urgent organization," Meridor wrote in the report, which was also compiled by other former defense officials, including Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ya'acov Amidror, former head of the Military Intelligence Research Division. The report - the first time Israel's defense concept was officially formulated and put into writing - referred specifically to the 15,000 Katyushas estimated to have been in Hizbullah hands before the war and called on the government to immediately begin working toward obtaining technological means that could intercept and prevent short-range rocket attacks. Once the war began, Meridor said he knew right away that it would end without a clear victory for Israel. "Under the present circumstances, it is impossible to completely destroy Hizbullah," he said, claiming that he knew that Israel's lack of an answer to the Katyushas would in the end force the government into accepting a cease-fire and ending the military campaign prematurely. He said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's cabinet had two choices - to use the air force to strike hard at Hizbullah and to then stop the fighting after a short time with either a cease-fire agreement or unilaterally, or to launch the offensive only after the IDF was fully prepared for war and not immediately following the July 12 kidnapping of reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. He claimed that the crisis that ensued after the fighting ended was even greater than after past wars since, in this case, the war was initiated by Israel. "This wasn't the Yom Kippur War [in 1973] when we were taken by surprise," he said. "Here we decided to go to war on our own." In the report, Meridor also called for the establishment of a "defense command branch," a government body that would be responsible for coordinating all defensive measures from the Arrow anti-missile defense system to the country's rescue services. "Offensives will be under the authority of the defense minister," he said. "The new defense command will come under the authority of the Internal Security Ministry." Fifty pages in the report are dedicated to the non-conventional threats Israel currently faces. Meridor said that he believed diplomatic efforts could succeed in stopping Iran's race to the nuclear bomb but only if they were conducted wisely. The committee also recommended that the National Security Council be upgraded and serve as the prime minister's primary coordinator with the various intelligence services including Military Intelligence and the Mossad.