Israel plans defensive strategy in bow to world opinion
Wednesday, January 4, 2006
TEL AVIV ・Israel's military has drafted requirements for a defensive strategy that envisions indefinite war with the Palestinians.
Israeli military officials and commanders said the new concept was based on the assessment that the Jewish state would be prevented by the international community from defeating the Palestinians in their five-year war.
Instead, Israel would depend on high tech defensive measures to protect its civilians while limiting the Palestinian missile and suicide bombing threat.
"It's not that offense is passe," Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz said. "But the [international] legitimacy for attacks has been reduced."
Halutz, addressing a defense seminar at Tel Aviv University on Tuesday, said Israel's military doctrine remains offensive. But he said the doctrine, which envisions an indefinite threat from insurgents and missiles, requires defensive solutions to a range of low-intensity conflict scenarios.
The solutions envision the development of a system to intercept the Kassam-class short-range missiles developed by Hamas and fired by Palestinian insurgency groups from the Gaza Strip. On Tuesday, at least 10 Kassam short-range missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. There were no reports of injuries.
During an earlier appearance at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Halutz said the military could not stop Kassam missile fire from populated areas of the Gaza Strip. Parliamentary sources quoted the chief of staff as saying he would not order artillery strikes on Beit Hanoun, the launching pad for Kassam strikes against Israel's western Negev desert and the city of Sderot.
Instead, the military has directed artillery barrages against uninhabited areas of the northern Gaza Strip. In September 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, and last week the military announced the establishment of a three-kilometer kill zone in northern Gaza. So far, the kill zone has failed to halt Palestinian missile attacks against Israel.
"Israel's deterrence against Palestinian fire is at a low point," Yuval Steinitz, the chairman of the Knesset committee, said.
Israel's technological priorities, officials said, have included defense against short-range rockets and missiles as well as the identification and foiling of suicide bombers at stand-off range. Officials said the Defense Ministry has not developed the technology to foil either threat.
Officials and commanders said the military's defensive strategy was largely the result of U.S. pressure that prevented the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from ordering a full-scale ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. They said that since 2002 the military has operated under the concept that the government would not approve an operation designed to crush the Palestinian insurgency.
As a result, the military's defensive strategy has aimed to reduce Palestinian attacks and Israeli casualties through the use of advanced technology, officials said. Such technology has been based on real-time intelligence and precision strikes.
"The idea is to create an effect and not conquer territory or achieve a defeat," Brig. Gen. Daniel Gold, research and development chief at the Defense Ministry's Defense Research Directorate, said.
Since 2003, Israel's research and development has been driven by the Israeli-Palestinian war, officials said. Gold's presentation at the seminar contained numerous simulations of an Israel Army incursion and reconnaissance of Gaza City and the West Bank city of Jenin, regarded as the leading insurgency strongholds in the Palestinian Authority.
Officials said the ministry has overseen the development of a UAV payload that could relay both live-stream video of ground targets while tracking the location of the platform. As a result, commanders in a ground station could see both the UAV and its targets on a split screen.
UAVs and helicopters have become a key element in the new defensive strategy, officials said. The use of these air platforms, they said, has significantly reduced the military's dependence on main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers and fixed-wing aircraft in the war against the Palestinians.
"We are in a period of change regarding strategic aims," Daniel Leshem, chief scientist at the state-owned Rafael, Israel Armament Development Authority, said. "Until 10 years ago, we focused on fighting a conventional war. Now, the emergence of rockets and missiles [along Israel's borders] has created a balance of terror not seen before."
The Defense Ministry has also overseen projects to reduce the weight and impact of air-to-ground munitions in an effort to kill Palestinian insurgents while preventing collateral damage. Officials said Israel's military has operated under the concept that the United States would not tolerate significant Palestinian civilian casualties regardless of the circumstances.
For his part, Halutz said the use of advanced technology for urban warfare missions was key to avoiding Palestinian civilian casualties. He said unmanned platforms, combined with precison-guided weapons and real-time intelligence, could eventually persuade the Palestinians to end their war.
"These urban warfare systems could turn the enemy into a non-enemy," Halutz said. "I'm not talking about turning the enemy into a lover. That will never happen ・rather turning the enemy into a non-enemy."
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