TEL AVIV Ñ Israel's military has launched the most significant
review of its force level in wake of what officials term the elimination of
Israeli defense and military officials said the review has been
undertaken by the General Staff under the supervision of Chief of Staff Lt.
Gen. Moshe Ya'alon and seeks to determine revisions to the force level by
2006. The study include options to cut manpower, reduce combat and
support units and determine the number of reservists required.
"It will take a few months to prepare this multi-year plan for the
government," Defense Ministry director-general Amos Yaron said. "The Israel
Defense Forces has been examining its priorities and the resulting
possibilities of cuts. It is clear that the changes in the region will allow
us to reduce our force level, reduce our commands and allow us to decrease
Officials said the review will be concluded in July and presented to the
government in September. The review will take into account the U.S.-led
victory over Iraq, the lessons to be learned from the U.S. war and the need
to significantly reduce the military budget.
Among the lessons already drawn from the war include the need to focus
on advanced technology, latest-generation fighter-jets and the reduction of
the standing army. Officials said weapons and platforms would be examined
for their lethality rather than for their requirement by any unit or
The effort to reform the military began in November 2002 when the
Israeli leadership determined that the United States would attack and defeat
the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Ya'alon established steering
committees that dealt with the insurgency threat, the threat from Israel's
Arab neighbors, weapons of mass destruction threat and the structure of the
The General Staff has determined that the fall of the Saddam regime
eliminated the threat from Israel's eastern border. The military assesses
that Syria has become unable to launch an attack by itself and that Iran
deterred by the presence of U.S. troops in neighboring Afghanistan and Iraq.
Another conclusion was that the fall of Iraq would significantly reduce
the prospect of an Arab military coalition against Israel. Officials pointed
commitment by Egypt and Jordan to their peace treaties with Israel.
Officials said these developments could allow the military to
significantly reduce Israel's armored corps and freeze procurement of
additional aircraft. Israel is said to have about 4,000 main battle tanks
and nearly 800 combat aircraft.
Another option could dismantle at least one of the three regional
commands in the military. The most likely command to be eliminated is
Southern Command, which is deployed long the southern Egyptian and Jordanian
Yaron said the Defense Ministry's agreement to cut at least 2.8 billion
shekel [$550 million] from the budget was based on the disappearance of the
Iraqi threat. He said the ministry plans to maintain major research and
development and procurement projects.
"We must have less statistical weapons and more precision-guided
weapons," Yaron said. "We must invest more in intelligence and surveillance
systems because this can reduce the quantity of the weapons required. The
intelligence and surveillance must continue to be a prority."
Officials said Ya'alon and his aides agreed on the outline of the
restructuring of the military and the revision of Israel's combat doctrine.
They said this would be based on the bolstering of special operations
forces, unmanned air vehicles, and fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.
In 1997, the Defense Ministry launched a review of Israel's military
doctrine, an effort that was never completed. The ministry has also
established a new political-military unit, headed by Maj. Gen. Amos Gilead,
update the military doctrine.
Officials said a one threat that will not be significantly reduced by
the fall of Iraq is that of Palestinian and Islamic insurgency. They said
this threat would require the development of new technology, including
improved command and control, intelligence and surveillance and precision
"We are amid a regional earthquake that stems from the U.S. national
security strategy that has designated targets in the sphere of
counter-terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and irresponsible regimes,"
Ya'alon said. "If they
succeed in introducing a democratic and stable regime in Iraq this will
influence way beyond Iraq."