There are 11 tanks in a company: the commander, his deputy, and three squads. It's a traditional structure, perhaps outdated, and in the era of the Merkava IV and the ability of the command to derive much more accurate power from fewer machines, there are those in the army who argue that it is possible to get by with a company of eight tanks. A simple calculation shows how much could be saved - more than a quarter of the number of companies in a brigade and a corps - showing just how much money and how many soldiers, in the conscripts and reserves, could be saved as a result of the change. Among the leading proponents of the change is Yiftah Ron-Tal, commander of the ground forces, who is not suspected of being hostile to the armored corps.
The army spends some NIS 8.5 billion a year for operations, half for manpower and the other half for equipment. That's a huge amount of money. Individual items in the budget can be exchanged for others (it's possible to calculate how many cans of corned beef each general is worth), but the overall price tag is a reflection of a political decision - to stick to the current structure of the army. Those who want to divert Israeli society into other directions, economic as well as military, should want to control the defense portfolio, so as to update the IDF's defense and operational doctrines, nuclear strategy, the draft, R&D and defense industries; and a bit on the issues of the territories and Lebanon.
The Labor Party apparently doesn't regard these issues as important. It did not deliberate on them or speak about them in the election campaign. It's hard to believe, but this is the party that is led by two former generals - Amram Mitzna, a former head of the Central Command and head of planning, and Matan Vilnai, a former manpower commander, commander of the Southern Command, and deputy chief of staff. Labor also has two former defense ministers - Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Shimon Peres. So much defense experience - and not a word about security.
Judging by the election results that handed Labor defeat, there was no reason for Ariel Sharon to bring the battered party into his government. But in effect, Sharon is the one doing the courting and Mitzna is the one being courted, even though he could respond to an offer that can't be refused with a price that he wouldn't bring down - the price would be the defense portfolio.
Without being in the Knesset, Shaul Mofaz is only clerking for Sharon. Mofaz speaks highly of him in public and keeps his real views private. Politically, for Sharon, Mofaz is meant to balance Benjamin Netanyahu in the Foreign Ministry, and the head of the Biberman faction (Bibi/Lieberman) in the Knesset, which is the function filled by former defense minister Moshe Arens for premier Yitzhak Shamir against David Levy in the Foreign Ministry; but the Shamir-Arens camp was much better balanced inside than the Sharon-Mofaz camp. If Mofaz has any positions on social and civil matters, he's keeping them classified.
After him on the list of security officials directly subordinate to Sharon are: the head of the Shin Bet, the head of the Mossad, the chairman of the National Security Council, and the head of the Scientific Administration - meaning the Atomic Energy Commission. The chief of staff and chief of military intelligence would not dare make known any criticism of Sharon.
Those who don't trust Sharon can exploit his difficulties in forming a government to put their hand of restraint on the double safety lock on security. Mitzna and his colleagues prefer to leave the safety off, in the name of a twisted logic: Sharon is dangerous, so let's let him run rampant without any supervision.
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