Text size

Senior Israel Defense Forces officers will start a series of meetings in Washington tomorrow with Pentagon counterparts, reviewing lessons of Israeli military actions in Lebanon and the territories that might be applicable in the current American-led war against terror. The IDF contingent will be led by Brigadier General Gershon Hacohen, who heads the doctrine and training branch of the General Staff's Operations Directorate. The American team will be headed by senior Defense Department official Dr. Andrew Marshall.

Israeli security officials believe the meetings represent American recognition of Israeli military know-how and experience. The meetings, they say, could provide assistance to the current American offensive in Afghanistan.

Also representing Israel in the discussions will be Colonel (Res.) Shaul Shai, an intelligence officer who has expertise in extremist Islamic groups, and two reservist brigadier generals, Shimon Naveh and Dov Tamari. These and other IDF officers have worked at the IDF's "confrontation doctrine" research center at Glilot.

In recent years, this facility has sponsored seminars for IDF officers on various operational issues. While preparing for clashes with the Palestinians, Central Command officers applied recommendations supplied by the team led by Shai, Naveh and others.

The IDF recently summed up its experiences after years of activity in Lebanon and the territories in a document entitled "Limited Confrontation."

The document analyzes conflict on several levels (economic, psychological, intelligence), rather than focusing narrowly on military issues. Moreover, it characterizes conflicts in which there is an imbalance between a strong side which deploys a regular army and a weaker side that depends upon an underground/terror organization. The IDF study probes conflict situations in which antagonists try to wear one another down, in a protracted struggle that does not escalate into full-scale war.

Before the September 11 attacks in America, Pentagon officials were concerned mainly about the scope and character of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since September 11, the U.S. interest in the IDF's general assessment of limited conflict situations has heightened considerably.

The Pentagon wants to ascertain whether lessons learned by the IDF can be applied in the current offensive against Osama bin-Laden, the Taliban regime and other terror groups.

Periodic meetings between Marshall's assessment group and IDF officials were held in past years, to review military technology developments and changes in strategic doctrine. These meetings were suspended when the intifada erupted last year.

The Pentagon's director of net assessment, Dr. Marshall joined the Defense Department in the 1970s and is a trusted adviser to Donald Rumsfeld, who served as defense secretary 25 years ago, before returning to the post under the current Bush administration. Commenting on Marshall's oft-discussed ability to "think outside the box," Rumsfeld declared recently that his aide is "one of the few people in the defense establishment who doesn't have to wake up in the morning, like a [military] theater commander, and worry about the test at hand."

The meetings involving the IDF officers, Marshall and his Pentagon colleagues reflect America's renewed inclination at a time of crisis to seek Israeli military expertise, at the risk of offending Arab sensibilities.