Lieutenant General Benny Gantz spoke today at the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, where he related to threats that the IDF could face in the not-too-distant future. He emphasized that although surrounding terrorist organizations could engage Israel in combat on every border, “we are strong enough to deal with every challenge, the expected and the unexpected.”
Missiles falling on IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, senior officers kidnapped in the field and wide-ranging cyber attacks – these are just a few of the potential scenarios that the IDF could face by 2025, according to Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz. The Chief of Staff described the kind of threats with which the IDF may have to contend in the next ten years speaking at the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies’ 2020 Vision summit.
“This is a battle that could begin with a precise missile targeting the General Staff Building which would hit the heart of the Kirya [IDF headquarters] in Tel Aviv, or a cyber attack on websites which provide daily services to the citizens of Israel – traffic lights could stop working, the banks could be shut down,” Lt. Gen. Gantz postulated.
According to the Chief of Staff, such an initial attack would lead to far more complex developments. “An incendiary tunnel could be detonated causing a playground to collapse or there could be a massive assault on an Israeli community close to the security fence. It could be a combination of all of the above,” he said.
The Chief of Staff went on to describe a scenario which could erupt into a multi-front war. He took the hypothetical example of a patrol jeep detonating a mine in the Golan Heights while another patrol comes under fire from an anti-tank missile. “The Chief of Staff will be told that there are three kidnapped soldiers, one of whom is a battalion commander,” he said. “Responsibility for the incident will likely be taken by a terrorist organization, either from global Jihad or another organization without a specific affiliation.”
“This future organization could set all the borders alight with an immediate, multi-front campaign,” he said. In such an instance, as a result of the Israeli response, Hezbollah would begin to launch missiles at Israel’s northern communities, while attempting to infiltrate over the border. “The accuracy of their missiles will increase dramatically, and if Hezbollah chooses to strike a pinpoint target, almost anywhere in Israel, it could do so,” Lt. Gen. Gantz said.
In the same hypothetical scenario, missiles could be launched at the southern Israeli city of Eilat by terror groups in the Sinai working in coordination with Hezbollah, while Hamas operatives storm the Erez Crossing between Israel and Gaza and advance towards the IDF’s Northern Gaza Brigade. “Sound imaginary?” the Chief of Staff asked the audience. “I don’t believe so.”
Changes in every sector
The Chief of Staff derived his hypothetical scenario from the current strategic reality of Israel’s geopolitical neighborhood – characterized first and foremost by instability. “The Sinai has become a no-man’s-land and marked as fertile ground for terrorism, treated by elements that we did not not necessarily expect two years ago or even less as those with an interest in operating in the area,” he said.
The Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip, which has been a base in recent years for terror activity and weapons smuggling tunnels, have recently encountered difficulties. “It is now facing doors which it did not think would be closed in its face, and it has been forced to develop creative means that it had not required in the past,” Lt. Gen. Gantz said.
The north too, has changed. “The pastoral landscape of the Golan Heights, dotted in basalt and awash in streams, could turn with a sudden bang into a battleground of blood, fire and pillars of smoke,” he said.
According to the Chief of Staff, every small incident could ignite the field in flames. “The transfer of strategic weapons to unwanted hands, the uncovering of an incendiary tunnel which reaches the entrance of a town, an explosive device which hits a patrol… these are just some specific but relevant and real examples from very recent days, which could lead to events that cause us to finish the day in a way that we could not expect at its outset,” Lt. Gen. Gantz explained.
Coordinated global terrorism
Among the major threats facing the IDF today is the growing strength of terror groups stationed near Israel’s borders and the potential for coordination between these groups in various countries. “They exist in the same networks and operate in the same forums,” Lt. Gen. Gantz explained.
Alongside this challenge is the cyber threat, which could impact on civilians networks – on the frontline and in the home front. “The enemy will aspire to act in the cyber realm – to infiltrate computer networks and to spread panic and false announcements,” he added.
In light of these threats, the IDF is undergoing wide-ranging preparations for all eventualities. In the kind of multi-stage, multi-front unfolding incident that the Chief of Staff described, he would be able to follow all events taking place in space, in the air, at sea, on land, underground and in the cyber-realm from the General Staff War Room deep beneath IDF headquarters. Thus all fighting forces working on the various missions would be coordinated. “In the vision that we formulated, the IDF would operate as one network, with the pinpoint firing of missiles and autonomous precision artillery, fired from aircraft and ships, and from tanks and by infantry soldiers,” Lt. Gen. Gantz explained.
In order to contend with these challenges, the IDF will require professional, capable, well-trained soldiers and forces that will support combat and operational activity. “We must ensure that we are there, ready for every threat and every necessary response,” Lt. Gen. Gantz declared.
Smaller, stronger, quicker
The Chief of Staff noted that the “the defense budget cuts that were imposed on us… accelerated the pace of change, and required us to take risks that I hoped we could manage in a more considered way.” Lt. Gen. Gantz later added that “in light of the concluded budgetary framework, we must act more quickly than we expected to. Nevertheless, such a reality requires us to provide for our security with the proper resources.”
In light of the current situation, the Chief of Staff emphasized the IDF’s obligation to nurture its human resources and develop the weapons at its disposal. “The missiles we fire will be more advanced and more precise, the helicopters with which we strike will move faster and avoid enemy fire, and the soldier will be better equipped, better trained, and more fit for his mission,” he said.
Non-combat soldiers will also take part in the mission to defend the country. “We will require, no less than we require today, support for every combat soldier – the mechanic who sends the fighter jet, the logistics personnel who equip the combat soldier on his way to an operation, and the decoder of the aerial photographs to guide all of the above to the precise target. No soldier will be demanded of less, and no soldier is less essential,” Lt. Gen. Gantz stressed.
The Chief of Staff concluded with confidence in the IDF’s capabilities to meet every threat head-on. “The compass that we have developed for the future is already paving us a new path. We are strong enough to face every challenge, the expected and the unexpected, and so it is our duty to invest whatever is necessary to provide the response, even by looking years into the future.”
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