While these are still great odds against the Jewish State, it is necessary to add into the mix the Israeli army’s strength: superior weapons systems, intelligence and logistics, better training, higher education and motivation (being in a “no alternative” situation where losing means national annihilation is a major factor in superior motivation). The result is an army with a better than even chance of winning a war.
As noted, current Israeli defense doctrine must take into account the vulnerability of its national infrastructure to enemy missile attack. This means reserves deployment locations must be sufficiently dispersed and distant from one another and from the border itself, to increase the chances of completing the mobilization and deploying the reserve forces to the war zone, even in the event of a missile attack. If the reserve mobilization were delayed by a barrage of ballistic missiles, then initial terrain conditions for Israel’s small, numerically inferior, standing army units would become all the more critical.
Judea and Samaria’s mountain ridge is also crucial to Israel’s air defenses. Israel deploys its air defense facilities along the mountain ridge to enable the interception of enemy aircraft from forward positions instead of from the heavily populated coastal plain. Short-range radar and early-warning systems situated in the coastal plain would have their line-of-sight blocked by the Judea and Samaria mountain ridge. Without control of this high ground Israel would have no warning time to intercept attacking aircraft. It takes only three minutes for an enemy fighter bomber to cross the Jordan River and fly the 42 miles to Tel Aviv. If Israel’s strategic depth were 34 miles less (i.e.: without Judea and Samaria), enemy planes could leave Arab air space and reach Tel Aviv in under one minute or less than minimum Israeli “scramble time,” not to mention ground defenses’ reaction time.
But to win the war with the aforementioned better than even chance, another agonizing problem must be solved. As noted, Israel requires 48 hours to fully mobilize. It is economically unfeasible for the IDF to be in a state of constant mobilization. The productivity of the country would grind to a standstill. No nation could survive such conditions indefinitely. In fact, it was due to this factor that the Soviet Union was able to orchestrate the 1967 Six Day War.
The Soviets informed the Egyptians that Israel was mobilizing on its northern borders opposite Syria. Although untrue, it caused the Egyptians to pull their troops out of Yemen and mass them on the Israeli lines. This in turn forced Israel to truly mobilize – this time opposite Egypt. Realizing the consequences of long-term mobilization, Israel sent word to Egypt proposing a mutual de-escalation of troops. Nasser’s response was to close the Straits of Tiran, which was an act of war. Israel, faced with the task of waiting for Egypt to attack, while forced to maintain an unending full-scale mobilization with the consequences of impending national economic disaster, had no choice but to act. Hence, Israel’s preemptive attack on the morning of June 5, 1967.
While conventional warfare, Israel’s main threat up until the late 1980s, subsequently became less probable, the threat of terrorist attacks together with missiles, from short-range rockets to large ballistic missiles, appear to have become the primary threats Israel faces. However, the political upheaval in the Arab world in the last few years cannot rule out – especially with the rise in prominence of radical Islamic elements in Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, among others – the potential return of regular Arab armies facing Israel in the near future.
Even in the missile age, wars are still ultimately decided by the movement of armies and not just by air strikes. As long as conventional ground forces remain the decisive element in determining the outcome of wars, then such issues as territory and strategic depth are crucial. Despite the proliferation of missiles and the use of terrorism as a strategic weapon, most of Israel’s Arab neighbors still stress the role of heavy armor in their order of battle, thus conventional warfare remains a significant potential threat.
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