Tags: israeli | defense | cuts | mistake

Mark Helprin: Israeli Defense Cuts a Mistake

By Dan Weil   |   Friday, 19 Jul 2013 02:27 PM

Israel's plans to cut its defense budget and reshape its military strategy are a mistake, says Mark Helprin, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute who served in the Israeli military.

"The government believes that, as recently expressed by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, 'Wars of military versus military — in the format we last met 40 years ago in the Yom Kippur War —are becoming less and less relevant,'" Helprin writes in The Wall Street Journal.

So the government seeks to cut defense spending by 5 percent, he says. That would include layoffs of many career officers and a reduction in planes, tanks, and warships.

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The idea is that the military will now be prepared to face Hamas, Hezbollah, and intifadas, rather than countries — Egypt, Syria, and possibly others, Helprin writes, adding: "The fallacy of this course is that, despite persistent internal troubles and external conflicts, the Arab confrontation states have coalesced at unlikely times and in unlikely circumstances."
That happened in 1948, 1967, and 1973, creating existential threats for Israel, Helprin continues.

"Although the divisions and travails of the Arab world retard coordinated action against Israel [now], the Arab world at times addresses these very problems by going to war against Israel."

Egypt has the capability to attack, Helprin notes, and if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad maintains power, he may want to go after Israel, too.

"And other Arab and Islamic states, their militaries swelling and at rest, cannot be excluded from the strategic calculus," Helprin adds. He cites Turkey and Saudi Arabia as possibilities as well.

"Yes, Israel's adversaries know of its nuclear weapons," Helprin writes. "But if the Iranian nuclear program succeeds? If Saudi Arabia, in reaction, develops its own nuclear weapons? Or if jihadists take over Pakistan and its substantial nuclear arsenal?"

That would eliminate Israel's nuclear advantage, giving the attackers a chance to hit Israel in the air and on the ground, he says, arguing that the Jewish state must not reduce its air and ground capabilities.

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"Israel's leadership is canny, as the country's survival attests, but it doesn't always know best," Helprin concludes, pointing to 1973, when top government officials, including Prime Minister Golda Meir, failed to act on analysis that warned of danger. The Yom Kippur War followed.

"Forty years later, Israel must not make the same mistake."

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