- Part 2 of analysis
In addition to the military buildup, preparations, and intelligence-gathering ahead of a defensive and offensive effort in the face of the Iranian threat, the IDF will focus on boosting its readiness and capabilities vis-à-vis the missile and rocket threat in closer theaters.
On the intelligence front, three issues will be emphasized: Identifying targets in Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza for the benefit of the Air Force, as well as ground and naval forces; monitoring the military buildup of Hezbollah, Hamas, and Syria – to ensure they are not receiving and deploying “balance-breaking” weapon systems such as advanced anti-aircraft missiles, surface-to-surface missiles, and advanced rockets (made by Russia or Iran,) and so on; and identifying Hezbollah and Hamas tunnels, arms depots, and fortifications in the heart of civilian areas (information that will also be used in the diplomatic-PR campaign.)
On the operational front, the IDF will continue to intensively address underground combat. The tunnels and bunkers set up by Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas in order to evade the wrath of Israel’s Air force require the IDF to come up with creative detection and combat methods. A significant part of these sites had been set up at the heart of civilian communities, making the effort to cope with them even more difficult.
Op-ed: In coming year, Israelis can expect more terror, but no strike on Iran’s nuclear sites
Meanwhile, the security establishment and IDF will accelerate (with US funding) the acquisition of Iron Dome systems for intercepting short and medium range rockets. The development of two more anti-missile defense elements will continue this coming year too: The Magic Wand system for intercepting heavy medium and long range rockets, and the Arrow 3 system for intercepting ballistic missiles in space. The defense establishment invests great sums of money and effort in developing the laser field as well, although a technological breakthrough is not expected soon.
On the training front, both in the regular and reserve army, officials will focus on boosting the ability to maneuver armored and infantry forces quickly while sustaining low casualties in mountainous areas replete with anti-tank and mortar fire.
Another issue that will occupy the IDF and mostly the Navy in the coming year is the flotilla initiative (and possibly also aircraft missions) meant to embarrass Israel in the Gaza context. The most alarming one is the “freedom flotilla,” which shall include some 30 vessels, as well as Jewish activists. The Lebanese “women flotilla” is also expected to head to Gaza. The IDF is preparing intensively, alongside quiet diplomatic efforts aimed at preventing these flotillas from departing.
Rapid changes in Mideast
Apart from dealing with the major threats, the intelligence community will be busy in other areas too, as IDF Intelligence and Mossad officials will have to be attentive to the rapid changes taking place in other corners of the Middle East.
Turkey is home to a domestic struggle between the secular opposition and army on the one hand, and the Islamic government on the other; In Lebanon, the publication of the Hariri probe results may destabilize the country and affect us too; Iraq, after most US troops withdrew, may fall into the hands of Iran and turn into a part of a new eastern front; and in Egypt, Mubarak is expected to end his presidential term, thereby undermining domestic stability to the point of uncertainty over the peace treaty with Israel and the security cooperation with it.
Elsewhere, the Shin Bet will have to keep monitoring Global Jihad, which threatens to operate against us from Lebanon, Jordan, and the Sinai. Attention will also be dedicated to Hezbollah, Iran, and Hamas efforts to prompt sleeper cells in the territories into action.
An issue that will increasingly preoccupy the Israeli intelligence community in the coming year is the Cyber War. As far as we know, Israel holds a comparative advantage on this front at this time.
All of the above challenges, and others, will be faced by the new security chiefs to lead the IDF and intelligence community. Indeed, by the middle of next year, almost all key figures in the IDF, Shin Bet, and Mossad top brass are expected to be replaced. This broad change within such brief period of time is unprecedented in the State of Israel’s history.
On the face of it, such turnover at the top of our security establishment is a rather dangerous gamble given the challenges ahead. We must keep in mind that the new appointees (Mossad chief, Shin Bet chief, and IDF chief of staff) will require at least six months in order to learn their new roles and formulate a policy and a priority list for their organizations. Moreover, we haven’t yet mentioned the tumultuous races to take place ahead of the decision on the various appointments.
Just thinking about the upcoming races, after what we saw during the effort to designate the new army chief, brings up great concerns among anyone familiar with the defense establishment. While intelligence estimates predict a relatively calm year on all fronts, thereby reducing the security threat inherent in the series of new appointments, we must keep in mind that intelligence assessments are not an insurance policy. In the Second Lebanon War, we saw what can materialize when a new army chief, defense minister, foreign minister, and prime minister encounter an unexpected situation.
Hence, the many missions and challenges, both domestically and abroad, to be faced by the defense establishment guarantee that the coming year will be no less interesting and challenging than the previous year, and possibly even more so.