“If we are making a mistake, it will be hard to fix it,” says IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Ganz, who was forced to absorb a reduction of $800 million in the 2013 defense budget. As an immediate response he ordered a cessation of most of the ground forces' training. “I'm not happy about the cut,” says Ganz, “but we need to dare and move forward with more relevant tools.”
“The cuts plan reflects two trends that coincided,” Nachushtan says, “Israel's fiscal distress, for which the military had to contribute its share and the geo-strategic changes in the region, which reduced the likelihood of a conventional conflict.”
Although designed to counter a symmetric enemy, the IDF has not engaged in combat with a regular army since 1973.
Today, the IDF considers Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia, as its main military challenge. With 80,000 rockets and missiles deployed in Lebanon, Hezbollah has the ability to shower every corner of Israel with rockets—some of them heavy and accurate—at a rate of 2,000 per day. Previous conflicts with Hezbollah, or with the Palestinian Hamas organization in Gaza, have demonstrated Israel's inability to suppress rocket fire by air force and limited ground maneuvers. Israel today is the most threatened territory on Earth, with roughly 200,000 warheads aimed at it from Lebanon, Gaza, Syria and Iran.
In addition, the IDF foresees an escalation of terror attacks from the Sinai, where the Egyptian army has not succeeded in exercising sovereignty and from the Golan Heights, as Bashar Al-Assad is gradually losing its grip in Syria. Beyond all that looms the threat of Iran obtaining nuclear capabilities, which eventually could draw Israel into a conflict with Iran.
“The nature of war hasn't changed,” said Ganz after presenting his plan. [In the next war] “we will see fewer divisions and more firepower of an invisible enemy. But we will know how to deal with it, eventually with a smaller army but much stronger and better equipped.”
But Ganz's plan is not only about cuts. While it is meant to save 7-8 billion shekels in the next five years, Ganz intends to increase investment in precise munitions, intelligence, command and control, missile defense and cyberweapons.
“Those tools will enable us to maintain a dramatic technological edge on every potential opponent,” Ya'alon says.
Israel's Defense Budget*
|Year||Total (in billions)||U.S. foreign militaryaid portion ($ billion)|