Ariel Center for
Policy Research



NATIV   ■   Volume Twelve   ■   Number 4&5 (69-70)  ■  September 1999   ■  Ariel Center for Policy Research




The Israeli Revolution in Security Affairs

Elliot Cohen, et al.

The main problem the IDF faced in planning to fight the Syrians was that conditions in the Golan were not conducive to implementing Israel's traditional operational concept, with its emphasis on early offensive action and the indirect approach.  The narrow front, the density of Syrian forces there, and the depth of the Syrian fortifications built since the 1973 war limited opportunities for maneuver and raised the possibility that a breakthrough battle would be won only at the cost of unacceptable high losses.

Israel devoted itself in the 1980s to developing equipment and methods to address what Israeli military experts proclaimed to be a crisis created by a saturated battlefield.  The particular operational problems of a war on the Golan, combined with the apparent potential of emerging military technologies, spurred a debate about the continued efficacy of Israel's traditional commitment to the offense versus the defense in war.  The participants in the debate fell into two camps:  Traditionalists and reformers.  According to the traditionalists, as expressed by General Israel Tal, Israel's singular adherence to offensive action was dictated by its strategic circumstance and had stood the test of time.  There was, accordingly, no need for change.

On the other hand, the reformers questioned the efficacy of offensive action and maneuver warfare under conditions obtaining on the Golan.  Under such conditions, offensive operations focusing on a breakthrough battle could well result in enormous casualties for Israel.  The reformers thus offered and alternative to the breakthrough battle.  They proposed that the IDF exploit new and emerging technologies - precision munitions, automated command-and-control systems, and day/night target acquisition capabilities - to create new war-fighting options for Israel.

Although the IDF could continue to emphasize preemption, implementation of the latter approach would entail a shift in emphasis from maneuver to fire, and from offensive action to an active defense on the ground - at least during the initial phase of a war.

ACPR Contact usNativ Index