The escalation in the Persian Gulf peaked on Thursday with the news that Iran had downed an American spy drone. This was one more incident in the military and diplomatic campaign that has been raging between the United States and Iran in recent weeks over attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf.
The Americans have beefed up their forces in the Middle East while the Iranians have begun using warlike rhetoric (“We will respond harshly,” “This is our red line”).
But according to both Israeli and Western intelligence assessments, Iran may not suffice with this limited confrontation with the Americans. Instead, it may launch a provocation on one of Israel’s borders, with the goal of intensifying the crisis mood and forcing the Trump administration to urgently reconsider its steps (Amos Harel, Haaretz, June 20).
President Reuven Rivlin commented on the tension this week. “We warn Hezbollah not to subordinate Lebanon to the Iranian agenda, and Lebanon not to serve as a base for attacking Israel,” he said. “We don’t want a war, but the IDF is ready to provide an answer to any threat and any scenario.”
But it’s doubtful that the Israel Defense Forces are really ready to provide an answer to any scenario. On Thursday, Haaretz reported that senior defense and health care officials have warned that in the case of a multi-front war, the system would not be properly prepared to deal with the resulting casualties (Yaniv Kubovich, Haaretz, June 20).
The data shows that Israel is short of about 30 percent of the military ambulances it would need for a war, while 20 percent of the army’s medical staff positions remain unfilled. Moreover, these officials said, the IDF’s plan to rely on cooperation with the Magen David Adom ambulance service to evacuate casualties on the home front doesn’t jibe with the actual conditions expected in wartime.
A senior defense official warned that “There will be a problem with evacuations … this issue keeps coming up for discussion, but nobody is taking it seriously and nobody is dealing with it to the end.” Outgoing State Comptroller Joseph Shapira also addressed this problem, warning that the IDF helicopter fleet must be adapted to evacuate soldiers from the front in light of the regional threats.
Israel’s military preparedness, as reflected in two large-scale exercises conducted this week, apparently doesn’t include paying serious attention to the scope of casualties, both civilian and military, which is likely to be higher than in the past. At the moment of truth, apathy and amateurism on this issue are liable to prove tragic.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.
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