July 29, 2013
Despite the violent upheaval surrounding it, Israel is launching the most drastic cut in its armed forces to date.
The change marks a dramatic shift for the Middle Eastern country, whose security strategy was forged in battle by the invasion by the Syrian and Egyptian armies in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The Israeli reaction to the 1973 surprise attack was to build a large army and air force that would be able to repel any invader.
Now, after four decades, Israel is finally relieving itself from the trauma of the 1973 attack, realizing that a conventional threat to the country, such as a massive physical breaching of its borders, no longer exists.
The Syrian army, drained by two years of civil war, is not considered as a potent threat. The Egyptian army, although well equipped, is busier managing the country's newly born democracy than preparing for conflict.
“In the new reality, battles of army versus army, like we have experienced 40 years ago, are becoming less and less relevant,” says Defense Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon.
Under this new mindset, the Israel Air Force's (IAF) commander-in-chief, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, has ordered the immediate shutdown of two squadrons of F-16A/B fighters and AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters. The order came without any advance warning to the squadrons' air and ground crews, many of which will be forced to retire. And this may be just the beginning.
The Israel Defense Force's (IDF) plans seek an additional 20 billion shekels ($5.6 billion) in the next five years, but the Israeli Cabinet is unlikely to approve that amount. That would send the IDF back to the drawing board to seek where to make additional cuts.