By Jacob Nagel and Jonathan Schanzer, Jerusalem Post—-
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was among the first world leaders to understand the dangers of the coronavirus. He locked down the country in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus. Even so, the country’s economy has been hammered by the pandemic. The economic slowdown has been painful. Business has ground to a halt and unemployment is through the roof. Israel will come out of this crisis in a deep budget deficit.
The government’s economic rescue package, currently totaling 6% of GDP, will go a long way to keeping the country intact. But there will be some difficult decisions about how to disburse it. The distribution of public funds in Israel has always been a rather straightforward process. Defense gets the first priority, followed by entitlements, health, and education. But this will all likely to change now, given the greater needs in the healthcare sector and the economic fallout.
It is almost certain that the multi-year TNUFA (“ideation”) defense plan will be impacted by these changes. But the government must not cut IDF plans too deep. The plan is crucial for the country if it is to properly face future threats.
At a staff meeting before the pandemic, in discussing the implementation of the TNUFA plan, Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said, “The threats are not waiting for us, so we are underway.” The IDF already began to implement parts of the plan, which was to receive between four and 10 billion shekels in supplemental funds per year, on top of the existing budget.
The plan was the brainchild of Kochavi, who sought to aggressively confront some of Israel’s most dire threats. This includes: the Iranian nuclear threat, the challenge of Iranian-backed terrorist groups in Syria and Lebanon from Hezbollah, Iran’s attempts to usurp Syria, and the threat of groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.
The US exit from the flawed 2015 nuclear agreement has prompted Iran to test the patience of the international community by violating the terms of the deal. Revelations by the Israelis after extracting damning documents from Iran’s atomic archives have also raised tensions in the nuclear area. The documents proved that Iran had violated its basic Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) and Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations, resulting in an unprecedented report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Israeli decision-makers and the IDF general staff are therefore placing the Iran nuclear program back at the top of the list of immediate threats. This means the IDF must maintain readiness and develop operational capability to stop the project (pending political decisions) in the next few years.
Israel has also shifted its policy away from primarily containing or defending against enemy rockets, missiles and drones, to pre-emptively targeting these weapons. This is already evident in Israel’s “war between wars,” which has remarkably continued during the corona crisis, targeting sensitive weapons across the region, even in far-flung places. The IDF had planned to address gaps in spare parts, smart weapons, and high-end manpower. Continue Reading….