Let’s review the potential threats. First, the recent upheaval in the Arab countries that surround Israel – both the inside and outside strategic circles – has brought back the high potential of conventional warfare involving armored units, mobile artillery, and fighter/bomber planes. (Witness for example, the recent IDF emergency reserve call-ups to deal with potential incursions from Egypt and Syria.) Second, either separately or as an extension of said conventional warfare, the threat of long-range missiles – with both conventional and non-conventional warheads. And third, the expansion of terrorist attacks, including suicide bombers, shoulder-launched missiles, and ground-to-ground fire (mortars, short-range rockets and medium-range missiles) that use a steep trajectory (meaning it is fired from beyond and over a border defensive line towards internal targets – e.g. from inside Lebanon to hit Haifa).
It must be understood that the determination of what are “strong and secure” or simply “defensible borders” is predicated on what potential long-term strategic threats Israel faces. And even though the last 20 years have seen an expansion of missiles and non-conventional weapons by Israel’s Arab neighbors, they also continued procurement of conventional weapons for their armies.
Some of those who want Israel to give up parts or all of Judea and Samaria attempt to neutralize the still existent threat of conventional Arab invasion forces by proffering “advanced technology” as a strategic solution to lack of territory with its commensurate strategic advantages. They claim that the IDF can employ advanced technological capabilities, including precision-guided weapons systems, to replace any loss of territorial superiority by Israel after conceding control of the aforementioned administered territories.
The fallacy in that argument is the fact that Israel’s enemies will inevitably also equip themselves with similarly advanced technological capabilities. Moreover, topography is directly relevant for the use of precision-guided weapons systems that require ground-based laser indicators. The old infantry saying regarding the importance of holding the high ground in battle – “it is easier to shoot down than to shoot up” – is even more critical in regards to the employment of high-tech weaponry.
The concept of strategic depth is not an advantage to national defense; it is imperative, and as weapons systems improve, it becomes even more so. With the advent of new military technologies the range of effective fire has increased considerably. US Army planners, for example, have doubled the distance of their definition of required minimal defensive depth. In Germany, during the Cold War, NATO planners defined their required defensive depth to be 125 miles (or three times what Israel has even with Judea and Samaria included). In a defensive battle, this distance would allow an area for retreat, permitting a line of containment to be stabilized closer to the border.
Israel’s post-disengagement-from-Gaza experience has established that the terrorists’ weapons of choice for attacking Israel from their own territory are weapons with curved-trajectory fire (mortars, rockets, etc.). Why? Because it is impossible to stop the attacks without Israeli forces striking the territory from where the terrorists’ weapons were fired. So the only limiting factor preventing significant harm to Israeli population centers is sufficient distance – or strategic depth. And if a terrorist has penetrated a security fence, the greater the distance he has to cover before carrying out his intended attack, the greater the chances of stopping him.
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