ANALYSIS: The IDF Looks At the Coming Year

IDF soldiers seen at a point by the Gaza border, near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, in Southern Israel, on January 13, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
IDF soldiers seen at a point by the Gaza border, near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, in Southern Israel, on January 13, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

While Israeli security officials do not foresee a deliberately planned war on the part of any of Israel’s enemies, who are each preoccupied with their own particular troubles, they do feel that the coming months are unpredictable and possibly unstable. Any minor incident along the borders or within the territory of Israel could escalate into something more serious that neither side sought.

Experts say that the IDF will be required to maintain a relatively high level of preparedness on a daily basis, not because a war is seen over the next ridge, but because no one can predict where the next flashpoint will be that could bring on a major conflict.

It could be on the northern border with Lebanon, on the Golan front adjacent to Syria, with Islamic State or other terrorist groups, from the direction of Iran, from Gaza in the south, from Hamas or Global Jihad, or along the border with Egypt, or even from the sea.

No future confrontation will be like those of the past, due to the proliferation of weaponry of all types on all fronts, and the upgrading of military capabilities of all the players, who have accumulated operational experience on the regional battlefields during the intervening years.

Defense officials fear a longer period of conflict, one that R”l, could exact a heavier price than what we have been accustomed to — in casualties and equipment, including planes and perhaps ships. Ben Gurion Airport is liable to be shut down completely, and the homefront could suffer.

Their sense of it is that Hizbullah talks big about war, but actually, after extensive losses on the Lebanese front, is weakened and not at all desirous of war.

At the same time, the organization is liable to take inordinate risks, and so a minor incident on the northern border could lead to a conflagration. On the other hand, Hizbullah and the Lebanese believe that a major conflict would set the country back 30 years.

The nuclear agreement with Iran is not good; it was possible to reach a better one, the defense and security officials believe. However, it is possible to find advantages to it, which should not and must not be overlooked. There were a number of gains that were not possible before this without a military strike, and were made without it.

On the eve of talks over Syria, Israel finds it difficult to answer the question of who we would prefer to rule there — the radical alliance of Assad, Iran and Hizbullah with Russian backing, or the Islamic State.

From Israel’s point of view, the best possible outcome would be if the war in Syria would end with the defeat of Islamic State, but leaving a weakened Assad in control, which would restrain him for the foreseeable future.

The threat of Islamic State is regarded as a declaration of a culture war on the entire Western world — maybe something on the order of a world war of a new kind, not like the first two world wars, but one where the Islamists are against anyone who isn’t an Islamist.

Islamic State is getting closer to Israel’s northern border, but the assessment is that if there should come an attack on Israel, it is more likely to come from Islamic State in the Sinai. There are not so many of them there, but they are well-equipped and highly motivated, more so than all their Islamic State comrades, to attack Israel.

A serious potential for conflict exists in the south from Hamas, which is completing its preparations for the next round. Meantime, Hamas is refraining from aggression as a result of operation Protective Edge, though this situation will not last much longer. Hamas continues digging tunnels and refitting its military forces.

Regarding the current wave of terror that has gone on for four months: The sense of the security officials is, like that of this military correspondent, that the wave is far from over. Nor has it even reached its peak.

However, the officials think that continuing security cooperation with the Palestinians and their security forces, and keeping close guard on the crossings into Israel that allow over 100,000 Palestinians to enter daily to work, are the two factors that will brake the trend of violence. The trend toward a wider Intifada could develop only if the political leaders in the Palestinian Authority push it forward.

These are the predictions and the expectations of the military experts. But as we know, Im Hashem lo yishmor ir shav shakad shomer. Only the Al-mighty can offer us true protection from all types of dangers, and He alone can protect us.

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