The IDF - Too Big to Assail

The IDF is too big and too well equipped with expensive weapons that were developed to counter threats that are no longer relevant.

Reuven Pedatzur
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The word from within the Israel Defense Forces is that cutting the defense budget is dangerous, as it will drastically hinder readiness to deal with increasing threats. But even a superficial review of the figures shows that it is possible - essential, even - to trim the defense budget, and doing so will have no influence on the IDF’s ability to deal with future threats.

The main problem arising from an examination of the IDF, and its future plans, is the disconnect existing between the IDF’s current structure and deployment to the developments and events occurring in our corner of the world.

Take, for example, the Armored Corps. According to figures from the Institute for National Security Studies, the IDF currently operates over 3,100 tanks and 8,000 armored personnel carriers.

About 1,600 of those tanks were made over 30 years ago, and about 220 are almost 50 years old. Also, more than a few of those armored personnel carriers were purchased by the IDF many decades ago.

Even within the IDF, the consensus is that this enormous reserve of tanks will have no role to play in a future war within our borders. The tank-to-tank fighting that characterized the Six-Day and Yom Kippur wars is no longer relevant.

The Syrian army is eroding away, and is no longer a force that needs to be considered. Over the next few years, the Egyptian army will be largely occupied by internal troubles, and the chances that Egypt will launch a war against Israel are less than negligible.

Even if Egypt decides to start a war, their tanks would have to cross the whole of the Sinai Peninsula - in that scenario, the slowly advancing tank convoys could easily be destroyed from the air.

The Iraqi army has not been a threat for years, and the “eastern front” - that the IDF has been deployed against for over two decades, with thousands of tanks - is fading away.

There is, therefore, no justification for the costly upkeep of thousands of tanks, and the future acquisition of many more expensive ones.

Why is it continuing? Largely because there is almost no supervision and critique of the IDF’s upper echelons.

Like every army in the world, the IDF strives to arm itself with the most advanced weapons systems available. In other nations, however, elected officials manage to supervise and limit their armies’ lust for new equipment.

This does not happen in Israel. The Knesset, which is supposed to govern the IDF, ignores this responsibility of theirs. Thus, the IDF is solely responsible for the structure of its army, its equipment, size, and operational deployment.

The Centurion tanks, ready to celebrate their 50th birthday, are just one example. Aside from the fact that the IDF is preparing for wars that almost certainly won’t happen, it is also investing a great deal of resources in combating a large number of threats on every level - regardless of the chances of those threats materializing.

The IDF has decided that, if there is a threat, it will plan to counter it. The result of that stance is a huge defense budget, growing every year.

The threats facing Israel have drastically changed over the last 20 years, and the IDF will need to deal with two primary threats in the foreseeable future: guerrilla and terror tactics; and missile and rocket fire. The chances of another war against the armies from neighboring states have all but disappeared, but that has not stopped the IDF from building up its strength to face scenarios like the Yom Kippur War.

The result is that, today, the IDF is too big and too well equipped with expensive weapons systems that were developed to answer threats that even military intelligence shows are very unlikely to materialize.