“Israel is preparing for a war the likes of which we haven’t seen in years,” said General (retired) Amir Avivi, founder and executive director of the Israel Defense and Security Forum (ISDF). “This is an exercise that will end a long era in Israel in which the Israel Defense Forces have enjoyed only ‘luxury’ wars.”
Last week Israel launched a major military exercise simulating a multi-front war codenamed “Firm Hand” (the Hebrew could also be translated as “Fist Punch”). In a conversation with Israel Radio, the ex-general explained the new situation and why Israel’s army urgently needs to prepare. “This is a historic maneuver that ends a very long period since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in which the Israeli army only fought luxury wars, in theaters such as the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria or a selective war in Lebanon,” Avivi underscored.
“For the first time in many years, the IDF is confronting a dangerous multi-front situation in the Middle East, stretching as far as Iran. With a number of complex combat zones in Lebanon and Syria, in Judea and Samaria and in the Gaza Strip. Because of the missiles, this war will be a big challenge for Homefront Command.”
According to Avivi, such large-scale exercises demand not only battlefield courage, but creativity as commanders must deal with complex dilemmas of prioritizing and deploying finite resources. “For many years the Israeli army has not operated in the reality it will one day find itself in, in real distress. These are big wars where you have to be very creative. What we urgently need and the IDF has been missing for years is fresh morale, real motivation.”
Recently, security expert and retired IDF general Yitzhak Brick warned that Israel was unprepared for a regional war. He presented this in a speech to the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). Avivi sees things a little differently: “I think that’s a false statement. The correct definition is that a war of this magnitude, for which Israel’s armed forces must now prepare, will indeed be a very difficult war, typical of wars in the past. We haven’t seen that for many years.” Asked whether Israel’s army could handle a multi-front war, Avivi replied, “I think Israel’s armed forces can handle it, and the Israeli homefront can handle it. But it’s true, this war will not be easy.”
The Arab media, including Hezbollah’s Al Mayadeen, ran with headlines such as: “Israel faces worst security crisis in decades, army unprepared for war.” Brick said the refusal to serve by reservists opposed to judicial reform could lead to internal divisions, a breakdown in cohesion and a loss of ‘fighting spirit.’
According to all forecasts, Israel will soon face a major multi-front war with Iran’s proxies. “For this reason, Israel is now training this scenario in the ‘Firm Hand’ maneuver, because it could happen in the not too distant future. Tomorrow morning? No. That has consequences and the other side understands that too. For a militia like Hezbollah, for example, this war could also be the end. So it’s not an easy decision,” explained Avivi.
Also related is Israel’s recent announcement of the successful test of the C-Dome, a ship-based equivalent to the vaunted Iron Dome anti-missile system. Israel’s Navy is also taking part in the current maneuvers. According to Avivi, this announcement is no coincidence and is related to the question of the degree of readiness and relevance of the troop build-up. “We understand that in a multi-front scenario, [the major threat will] not be armored divisions storming Israel’s borders like in the Yom Kippur War, but the launching of rockets, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles at Israel.”
Brick pointed out that Israel is surrounded by 200,000 missiles and attack drones, all of which pose a threat to its very existence. “In the event of war, an average of about 3,000 rockets and dozens of drones are fired at Israel every day. In a multi-front war, the attacks could result in a multitude of deaths every day.”
An Iranian threat at sea has been known to Israel for over a year, but recently Defense Minister Yoav Gallant spoke publicly about it. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. naval force is working to convert merchant ships and oil tankers into warships capable of carrying and launching UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). These ships, which may be disguised as civilian vessels, have the potential to transit international shipping lanes such as the Mediterranean, as well as via the Suez Canal. This endangers the entire European continent. Certain UAVs and limited numbers of kamikaze drones can even be launched from a common merchant ship. So Israel is altering its tactics to deal with such scenarios. “Putting a missile defense system like Iron Dome on a ship is a very complex challenge because the ship moves and doesn’t stay in one place.”
And that’s why Israel has been training vigorously for a large-scale, multi-front war more frequently than usual. The motto among young soldiers today is: “Train hard, so the battle will be easy!”
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