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Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon 370.(Photo by: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry spokesman)
Ya'alon: IDF cuts revolutionary, will recreate army
Defense minister touts investment in military technology, says reforms will help IDF adapt to the changing nature of warfare.
Conventional warfare waged between armies, last seen by Israel in the Yom Kippur War, has become less relevant for the IDF, and upcoming reforms will help the military adapt to the changing nature of combat, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said on Thursday.

“We are not enslaved to technology – we are using it and adapting it to the new reality wherein the army vs army conflicts that we last saw 40 years ago in the Yom Kippur War are becoming less and less relevant,” he said.

Ya’alon’s comments came a day after the IDF announced a series of cost-cutting measures for the coming five years meant to save several billion shekels. The cuts, which still need to be approved by the cabinet, include firing 3,000 to 5,000 career soldiers and downsizing and closing flight squadrons, armored and artillery units, and naval deployments.

The defense minister said the reforms “will help fighters operate with greater efficiency, while at the same time exploiting their human and technological advantages that will allow them to achieve victory in battle swiftly and decisively.”

“Due to the changing threats around us and the capabilities that the IDF has developed, we have concluded that we must lead a meaningful reform and not one that shall enslave the future for the sake of the present,” he said.

Ya’alon emphasized the push for hi-tech, sophisticated weaponry.

“The foreseeable future is leading us to battles which will be determined by superior IDF technology, in the air, land and sea, with less heavy tools and through more and increasing use of sophisticated and unmanned technology which give us a significant advantage over any enemy,” he said.

The military will continue to work to preserve its technological advantages in the region, largely by focusing on the “building blocks” of this approach – precision ammunition, cyber-defense, communication and intelligence, he said.

We stand before “a revolutionary multi-year plan, and within a few years we will see a different IDF,” Ya’alon said.

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Avi Benayahu, the former IDF spokesman, said the proposed cuts weren’t brought on by the shortcomings in the state budget or pressure from the Finance Ministry, rather that they were planned years ago, and focused on threats Israel expects to face and changes in the region over the coming 10 years.

For Israel today, “there isn’t an enemy that you can see through binoculars on the horizon,” Benayahu said, adding that while the situations in Egypt and Syria are both dangerous, there is little likelihood that Israel will be facing a conventional war with a conventional army on any of its borders.

“The conventional threat is no longer relevant anymore. We have three main threats – Hezbollah, Hamas and the terror in Sinai. These are things that can alter our lives but not threaten our lives,” he said.

Israel also faces the long-range threat posed by Iran and the threats of delegitimization and cyber-warfare, Benayahu said. None of these is dealt with by conventional warfare, he said.

Dr. Eitan Shamir of Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, the former head of the National Security Doctrine Department in the Strategic Affairs Ministry, said of the cuts, “The question is what the army intends to do – if it’s some sort of facade where they scream about cuts in order to scare the public, saying that they won’t be able to provide security or if it’s really a deep process of changing the army, which would be an opportunity to better match the army to today’s reality.”

While the IDF is technologically and tactically advanced, it’s very conservative in terms of doctrine and structure, and it’s “obvious to anyone who has spent time around the army that there is a lot of waste and fat to be trimmed,” Shamir said.

He spoke of eliminating some of the older, less-advanced tank units that can’t face the anti-tank missiles that plagued the IDF during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, and other platforms more suited to an older style of warfare.

That said, cuts must be balanced, so that the IDF doesn’t find itself unable to deal with extreme scenarios, such as a multi-front war on the northern and southern borders, he said.

“There’s an old saying by Winston Churchill – ‘Gentlemen, we’ve run out of money. Therefore we need to start to think’ – I hope this is what they’re doing and it’s in a real and deep way, but only time will tell,” Shamir said.
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