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Israel's military plans major cuts after war ends Iraqi threat

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Thursday, July 3, 2003

TEL AVIV Israel's military has submitted a long-term plan that envisions a significant restructuring and reduction of the standing army.

Military sources said the U.S. defeat of Iraq eliminated a major threat to Israeli cities by missiles and weapons of mass destruction. Iran and Syria are still regarded as missile and WMD threats.

Under the plan, the Israel Defense Forces will significantly reduce the standing army and officer corps, Middle East Newsline reported. The sources said the plan calls for a dismissal of 3,000 posts in the standing army from 2004 until 2007.

"We are talking about a plan that takes into account a change in the array of threats against Israel," a senior military officer said. "It is the classic case of taking calculated risks."

The cuts would be deepest in non-combat commands, such as the Home Front Command. The sources said.


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Other cuts would come in weapons development programs, the sources said. They said entire projects would be scrapped, but would not specify.

The plan also calls for the retirement of aging platforms, including U.S. aircraft procured by Israel in the 1960s and early 1970s. The sources said this would include the F-4 Phantom fighter-jet.

The five-year plan was discussed during a two-day seminar led by Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon with senior commanders. The seminar discussed changes in the Middle East, weapons requirements and expected budget cuts.

The cut in the standing army would be accompanied by a reduction in military units, command posts and bases. The sources said many of the military's services would be taken over by civilian defense contractors.

Military sources said the the IDF has already canceled orders, particularly from local contractors, of ammunition, equipment, supplies and weapons. They said they expect that orders scheduled to expire in 2004 would not be renewed.

The government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has decided on deep cuts in the defense budget over the next two years. Meir Shetreet, a minister who focuses on finance, said the government plans to cut the defense budget from the 39 billion shekels [$8.9 billion] approved in 2002 to 33 billion shekels [$7.5 billion] in 2004.

Shetreet said the budget now stands at 36 billion shekels [$8.18 billion] for fiscal 2003. More than $2 billion of Israel's annual defense budget consists of U.S. military aid.

"This is the first time that the military establishment understands that there is no alternative but to cut the budget," Shetreet said.

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