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Israel Needs a Large Army — Not Just Advanced Technology (PART TWO)

Israeli soldiers drape their country’s flag over an IDF tank near the border with Gaza after the October 7 Hamas massacre. Photo: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun

For Part One of this article, click here.

The offensive fighting in Gaza has drawn the bulk of the IDF’s effort. Meanwhile, approximately 100,000 Israeli citizens cannot return to their homes on the Lebanese border, and no one is able to commit to a date for dealing with this problem. Again, there are several reasons for this, but the most influential is the lack of sufficient forces. The IDF was unable to simultaneously conduct major ground offensives in both Gaza and Lebanon. Although the IDF’s achievements in the ongoing war of attrition on the Lebanese front have been good, they are far from sufficient to achieve Israel’s political goal: the removal of Hezbollah forces from the border to allow our citizens to return home.

Consider the lessons of the Yom Kippur War. After that war, the IDF increased its standing forces to deal with the threat of another multi-front surprise, but it also increased its reserve forces to enable victory to be achieved faster. Over the past few decades, the IDF has drastically reduced both its standing and reserve forces (about 170,000 soldiers were dismissed from the reserves due to a decision by IDF leadership that they were no longer required). The current war has demonstrated that this reduction of the reserve forces was a mistake in every possible respect. Not only were they reduced numerically, but most of those not cancelled had their training budgets drastically reduced. It is no coincidence that it took almost three weeks of retraining before the IDF was able to go on the attack in the current war. In the Yom Kippur War, reserve forces were fighting in large numbers within a single day on the Syrian front and within two and a half days on the Egyptian front.

The IDF has always depended on the reserve forces to complete its combat power on the battlefield – in fact, the reserves were considered the main force. However, the mobilization of reserves dictates short wars. Israel is also committed to short wars because of the intense political pressure it is invariably under to stop fighting before it has reached the achievements required to guarantee its security.

This is not a new situation. But the need for short wars returns us to the issue of the size of the force, and this war created a chain reaction: the inability to attack the whole Gaza Strip simultaneously led to the prolongation of the fighting, which led in turn to the release of reserves before the mission was completed. The continuation of the war also led to the loss of patience of countries that had supported Israel, which ratcheted up the pressure on Israel and led to the partial stagnation that now prevails in Gaza.

The fact is that after over six months of war, despite all the operational achievements of the IDF, politically and strategically the State of Israel is still in the basic state of defeat it suffered on October 7. Israelis remain expelled from their homes with no possibility of defining a clear time limit on their status as internal refugees, and this is because the full sovereignty of the State of Israel has not yet been restored to all its territories.

The military technology used by IDF forces, for all its sophistication, cannot change this strategic reality. Over the past two decades, some of the most advanced technologies in the world have been acquired by the IDF. Much has been said about the use of computer network warfare technologies, precision weaponry and remotely operated means to replace old and supposedly obsolete means that are no longer needed. This concept failed in the war in Ukraine, and it failed once again in the war in Gaza.

The most efficient and useful tools turned out to be the “unnecessary” ones that had been reduced in number and were not sufficiently available for the forces – tanks, bulldozers, mortars, etc. This does not mean the new technologies have no value; they add additional performance, but do not obviate the need for the old means. In the war in Ukraine, the leading powers in the field of cyber warfare did not achieve a single achievement of strategic significance. Also, despite the use of many varieties of precision weaponry and remotely operated aircraft, battles are decided by “outdated” statistical artillery and mass. If the IDF had had two or three additional divisions available, even equipped with less advanced technology, Israel’s strategic situation would have improved considerably.

Advanced technology is important, but the question is which technology and at what level of investment and equipment. Most of us have phones and computers with many tools and options we don’t use or need, but we pay a lot for the latest models anyway. The IDF has spent huge amounts on advanced technologies whose overall contribution to the results on the battlefield is less than their alternative cost. Interception systems for the defense of the home front are a necessary technology; systems such as the “Trophy” (which has saved hundreds of fighters) are necessary; but many other technologies, while scientifically amazing, cost more than they are worth.

For example, a basic Merkava 4 costs 150% more than a Merkava 3. An advanced Merkava 4 costs even more. But some of the additions and upgrades it contains do not provide sufficient tactical value to justify the additional cost. The lack of sufficient tanks was due not only to the perception that they are unnecessary but also to their increasingly high price. Among other things, the steep price led to a reduction in training in a way that diminished the competence of commanders and crews. Cheaper tanks in greater quantity, with advanced technology limited to specific tactically important capabilities rather than the best that can be created whatever the cost, would have enabled maintaining larger and better-trained tank forces — forces that were lacking during this war.

Another example is drones. The cost of professional military drones is much higher than that of commercial civilian drones. Military UAVs have important capabilities that civilian models do not, and a certain number of them is required — but, as was proven in the war in Ukraine and again in athe current war in Gaza, cheap civilian UAVs and drones of all kinds are able to provide most of the required capabilities at a negligible cost. It is possible to distribute them widely in the army, not only to a small number of specialist units, and thus better exploit their unique tactical contribution.

In conclusion, the IDF needs more ground forces than it currently has at its disposal. It is important not to exaggerate and increase forces to dimensions the State of Israel cannot sustain without intolerable financial cost. Technology is an important component of war-fighting too – but again, it is important not to exaggerate. Operational experience, not only from the current war but also from Israel’s previous wars and the wars of others, shows that not every technological innovation is beneficial. Sometimes their costs cause more damage than the added capability they provide because acquiring them reduces the ability to acquire other no-less necessary capabilities.

In our opinion, considering the existing and emerging threats surrounding the State of Israel, the IDF needs at least two more armored/mechanized divisions, and preferably three. It is desirable for Israel to have technological superiority over its enemies, but the benefit of this superiority is not equal in every field. There are areas in which it would be advantageous for the IDF to equip with the most modern technology available, provided it is able to purchase a reasonable amount — a “critical mass” — and still have a budget that enables the training of operators and the purchase of quantities of older tools. Inadequate skill levels due to a sharp cut in the depth and quality of training over many years led to Israel’s paying a price in casualties and insufficient performance, despite the very advanced technologies the forces had at their disposal.

In most cases, an improved technology that is “good enough” in large quantities is many times better than an excellent technology, even the most advanced that exists, but in a tiny quantity. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule that must be identified and invested in.

One area where a particularly large shortage was discovered is ammunition. The ammunition shortage is not unique to Israel. Russia and Ukraine have also discovered that they do not have either enough stocks or sufficient capacity to produce new ammunition, and this shortage has severely limited their ability to conduct operations. The NATO countries are behind Ukraine, but all of them put together are unable to meet the needs of the Ukrainians. Russia’s situation is a little better, and this gap is greatly affecting the results of the fighting. Although there is a huge effort by many countries to increase production, there are also shortages in raw materials, production machines and skilled workers, slowing down the industrial build-up to increase production. To this must be added fear of an escalation of conflict in East Asia over the issue of Taiwan or other possible flashpoints, which, if it occurs, will create an even greater shortage. Therefore, Israel should do as much as it can to increase its independent production capacities and accumulate stocks much bigger than the ones with which it started the current war.

Dr. Eado Hecht is a researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and a lecturer in the master’s degree program in Security Studies at Bar-Ilan University. Prof. Eitan Shamir is Director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. A version of this article was originally published by The BESA Center.

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Netanyahu Heads to DC After Biden Quits 2024 Race, Says Israel Will Remain ‘Strong’ US Ally Whoever Is in White House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Jerusalem, Feb. 18, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday departed for a highly anticipated trip to Washington, DC, where he will meet with US President Joe and Biden and deliver a speech before Congress this week as America grapples with the aftermath of Biden’s unprecedented decision to end his 2024 reelection campaign.

During his first trip to the US capital in almost four years, Netanyahu plans to visit the White House and also address US lawmakers on Wednesday. Netanyahu was originally expected to meet with Biden on Tuesday; however, several Hebrew media outlets reported that the meeting will likely be delayed due to Biden still being sick with COVID-19.

It is unclear how Biden’s shock decision on Sunday to drop out of the US presidential race will impact Netanyahu’s address to the US Congress. According to Israel’s Channel 13, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, a close confidant of Netanyahu, assured US officials that the speech will not include criticism of or against Biden following repeated requests by US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan for information about what the Israeli premier will say.

Netanyahu issued a statement following Biden’s announcement indicating the Israeli premier will underline the importance of bipartisanship in maintaining a close US-Israel relationship.

“I will seek to anchor the bipartisan support that is so important for Israel. And I will tell my friends on both sides of the aisle [in Congress] that regardless of who the American people choose as their next president, Israel remains America’s indispensable and strong ally in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said while leaving Israel for Washington, DC. “In this time of war and uncertainty it’s important that Israel’s enemies know that America and Israel stand together today, tomorrow, and always.”

The Israeli premier also expressed gratitude to Biden, stating that he will thank the US president for helping the Jewish state as he prepares to exit the White House.

“I plan to see President Biden, whom I’ve known for over 40 years. This will be an opportunity to thank him for the things he did for Israel in the war and during his long and distinguished career in public service, as senator, as vice president, and as president,” Netanyahu said.

Amid declining support for Israel among US liberal Democratic lawmakers, Netanyahu hopes to use his congressional address and White House visit to mend relations with Democrats, who have become increasingly uneasy over Israel’s war effort against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

Biden has come under heavy fire from Republicans as well as pro-Israel Democrats for what they’ve described as him turning against Israel amid the ongoing war in Gaza.

The US president expressed strong support for Israel following Hamas’ brutal invasion of southern Israel on Oct. 7, when Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists murdered 1,200 people and kidnapped about 250 hostages during their onslaught. In recent months, however, Biden has paused some weapons shipments to Israel and accused the US ally of “indiscriminate bombing” — a charge rejected by Israeli officials.

The Biden administration also discouraged Israel from launching a military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah to target some of the last remaining Hamas battalions, arguing such an operation would put too many civilians at risk. Experts told The Algemeiner at the time that Israeli forces needed to operate in Rafah in order to dismantle Hamas’ military capabilities.

More broadly, the relationship between the Democratic Party and Israel has deteriorated in the months following Oct. 7. Several high-profile Democrats, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), have suggested that Israel’s military operations in Gaza are tantamount to a “genocide.” Democratic lawmakers have also called on Biden to halt arms transfers to Israel, citing concern over mounting civilian casualties in Gaza.

While Israeli officials have expressed frustration about the Biden administration pressuring them to halt their military campaign, Netanyahu is expected to use his visit as a way to repair some of the damage. The trip could also serve as a way to make Israel’s case directly to the American public, which overall remains pro-Israel despite declining support among younger demographics.

The percentage of Americans that express “little or no confidence” in Netanyahu has increased by 11 points since 2023, according to an April poll by Pew Research Center. Among Democrats, a staggering 71 percent express “little or no confidence” in the Israeli leader. 

Anti-Israel groups have also organized protests in advance of Netanyahu’s congressional address. Far-left organizations such as Party for Socialism and Liberation and Palestinian Youth Movement are urging their supporters to “surround the Capitol” during Netanyahu’s address. Leaders of these groups have branded Netanyahu as a “war criminal” and have called for his arrest. 

The people charge Benjamin Netanyahu with genocide. When war criminal Netanyahu comes to Washington DC,” Palestinian Youth Movement wrote on Instagram, “the people of the world stand with Palestine and against the genocide committed by Israel with full support of the United States and impunity.”

In addition to meeting with Biden, Netanyahu may also speak with Republican presidential nominee and former US President Donald Trump. Netanyahu has requested an in-person meeting with Trump while in the US this week, according to Politico.

The Algemeiner could not immediately verify the report.

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Pro-Hamas Demonstrators Avoid Punishment Following Wave of Dropped Charges, Reports Say

Law enforcement officers detain a demonstrator, as they clear out a pro-Hamas protest encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Los Angeles, California, US, May 2, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/David Swanson

The State Attorney’s Office of Cook County, Illinois has dropped criminal charges filed against three Northwestern University faculty and one graduate student who allegedly obstructed law enforcement’s efforts to clear an unlawful demonstration at the Deering Meadow section of campus.

According to a local National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate, the office said its decision is based on its “policy not to prosecute peaceful protesters.”

Charges against the four individuals were pursued by the Northwestern University Police Department, which said that they allegedly engaged in “obstructing a police officer during the protests,” a crime for which they could, if convicted, spend a year in jail and pay a $2,500 fine, The Daily Northwestern reported last week. They had already appeared before a judge and were scheduled to do so again in August.

The university had defended the recommendation of its police department and rejected the notion that the individuals acted peaceably, saying in a statement issued earlier this month that it “does not permit activity that disrupts university operations, violates the law, or includes the intimidation or harassment of members of the community.”

Many more protesters have similarly avoided punishment for the actions they took during a burst of pro-Hamas demonstrations at the end of the 2023-2024 academic year, according to a new report by The New York Times. Prosecutors in Travis County, Texas, for example, have dropped over 100 charges of criminal trespassing filed against University of Texas at Austin protesters, the paper said, and 60 other Northwestern University protesters saw their charges dismissed, with prosecutors calling them “constitutionally dubious.” The Times added, however, that some charges will stick, including those filed against someone who bit a police officer, and many students are still awaiting the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.

Per the report, “At the University of Virginia on May 4, as students were preparing for final exams, administrators called in police to break up an encampment. Police officers in riot gear used chemical irritants to get protesters to disperse and eventually arrested 27 people. The local prosecutor dropped the charges facing seven people after he determined there wasn’t enough evidence. He offered the rest an agreement: their charges would be dismissed in August if they didn’t have any outstanding criminal charges at the time.”

Prosecutors in other states have not been as forbearing. According to Fresh Take Florida, prosecutors in Alachua County, Florida charged seven University of Florida students, as well as two non-students, with trespassing and resisting arrest. The defendants have resolved to take their chances at trial, the news service added, noting that all nine have rejected “deferred prosecution,” an agreement that would require them to plead guilty, or no contest, in exchange for the state’s expunging the convictions from their records in the future so long as they abstain from committing more criminal acts.

One of the nine, computer science student Parker Stanley Hovis, 26, — who was suspended for three years — proclaimed earlier this month that they will contest the state’s cases.

“We did not resist arrest, and we are prepared to fight our charges,” Hovis said in a statement. “We’re standing in solidarity with each other, and collectively demanding that the state drop the charges against us.”

Jewish civil rights group have described the anti-Israel protesters across the US as posing an imminent threat to Jewish students and faculty while noting that many avert being identified by concealing their faces with masks and keffiyehs, a traditional headscarf worn by Palestinians which has become known as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian cause and opposition to Israel. Images and footage of the practice have been widely circulated online, and it has rendered identifying the protesters — many of whom have chanted antisemitic slogans, vandalized school property, and threatened to harm Jewish students and faculty during a weeks-long demonstration between April and May — virtually impossible.

On Thursday, one such civil rights group, StandWithUs (SWU), implored the US Department of Justice to crack down on masked protests at Columbia University by enforcing legal statues which are widely referred to as the “KKK Laws,” citing numerous antisemitic incidents of harassment and assault on its campus and the difficulty of punishing the perpetrators.

Dating back to the administration of former US President Ulysses S. Grant, the so-called “KKK Laws” empower the federal government to prosecute those who engage in activities which violate the civil rights of protected groups, as the Ku Klux Klan did across the US South during Reconstruction to prevent African Americans from voting and living as free citizens. StandWithUs alleges that five anti-Zionist groups — most notably Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — currently operating on Columbia University’s campus have perpetrated similar abuses in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which guarantees all students, regardless of race or ethnic background, has the right to a safe learning environment.

“We hope the Department of Justice will take this opportunity to restore justice on Columbia University’s campuses and hold bad actors responsible for violating federal laws,” Yael Lerman, director of the SWU Saidoff Legal Department, said in a statement.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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France Says Israeli Athletes ‘Welcome’ at Olympics Amid Mounting Threats, Added Security Measures

The Olympic Village prepared for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Photo: Paris 2024 / Raphael Vriet

French leaders said on Monday that the Israeli delegation to the 2024 Paris Olympics is welcome in France, despite what critics described as “antisemitic” comments to the contrary made by a French politician two days earlier

At an anti-Israel rally on Saturday, far-left French lawmaker Thomas Portes said, “I am here to say that, no, the Israeli delegation is not welcome in Paris. Israeli athletes are not welcome at the Olympic Games in Paris.”

Portes called for Israelis to be excluded from the Paris Olympics because of Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip who perpetrated the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel.

Portes later also told the newspaper Le Parisien that “France’s diplomats should pressure the International Olympic Committee to bar the Israeli flag and anthem, as is done for Russia” due to its invasion of Ukraine.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said Portes’ comments had “obvious antisemitic overtones” and “placed a target on the backs of the Israeli athletes.” He added, “I want to express my disgust at that. I want to assure the Israeli athletes of our full protection, like all athletes, but particularly them, also welcoming them.”

Darmanin also announced that Israel’s Olympic delegation, which includes 88 athletes representing the Jewish state, will have increased security and will receive 24-hour security from French police. He said the decision was made after taking into consideration the 1972 Munich Olympics — where 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September — and how Israeli athletes are a target for attacks, especially since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

France has experienced a record surge in antisemitic incidents since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched the war with its massacre across southern Israel.

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné reiterated that the Israeli delegation “is welcome in France” for the Paris Olympics during his visit to Brussels on Monday, the French-language newspaper Le Monde reported. He called Portes’ remarks “irresponsible and dangerous,” and added that France “will ensure the security of the [Israeli] delegation.”

Paris Police Chief Laurent Nuñez said 30,000 to 45,000 police personnel will be working daily to ensure safety at Olympic sites and fan zones in Paris.

It was previously reported that Israel doubled its security budget for this year’s Games, which will be Israel’s 18th appearance in the Olympics. Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar told The Telegraph that the Israeli Olympic delegation this year, which is the second-largest Israeli delegation in Olympics history, has received threats but he did not go into detail. He added that delegation members will receive security details from Israel’s Shin Bet security agency but not everyone will have their own bodyguards.

“We try our best to make sure the athletes feel free but also safe and not afraid. We don’t want them to notice the security guards too much. We want them to feel confident so they can do their job,” he explained to the publication.

There have been calls to ban Israel from the Paris Olympics because of the Israel-Hamas war, but Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said in March there is no doubt that Israel will participate in the Paris Olympics.

The 2024 Olympic Games will take place from July 26-Aug. 11.

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