Just before he finished his term as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Gadi Eisenkot went to war against the IDF ombudsman, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brik, who had written a harsh report saying the military wasn’t prepared for the next war. In September 2018, in an unusual step, Eisenkot sent all the members of the security cabinet and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee a letter.
“As the person responsible for the military’s preparedness for war, I declare that the IDF is ready for every mission demanded of it, a military with intelligence and air superiority, a ground capability, and one with rich operational experience that meets the test daily in all arenas of war,” Eisenkot wrote.
He said similar things at his farewell ceremony at the beginning of this year, with the new chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, at his side. In July at the Herzliya Conference, Eisenkot said that “the IDF has the most advanced capabilities in the world and unequivocal military superiority within a radius of 2,000 kilometers from Israel” – 1,240 miles.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also the defense minister, also takes pride in Israel’s achievements in the battle against Iran’s military entrenchment in the Middle East. But the wind has shifted recently. In his speech at the swearing-in of the new Knesset early last month, Netanyahu sounded more worried than ever.
“This is not spin and not a whim …. Iran is arming, strengthening, its audacity is growing. This reality requires us to strengthen and arm.” The IDF needs “defensive and offensive means of a scope, power and quality that we haven’t had before,” he added. This will require “many billions” more in the defense budget. On Thursday, at the graduation ceremony for the Ground Forces’ officers training course, Netanyahu said “we are prepared for the threats.”
It seems that senior defense officials, who until recently emphasized the IDF’s preparedness and the enemy’s weakness, have adopted Netanyahu’s line. Last week Kochavi said the threats against Israel were getting worse.
“On the northern and southern fronts the situation is tense and fragile and could deteriorate into a conflict, even though our enemies aren’t interested in a war,” he said. Such a situation requires the IDF to launch a “process of accelerated preparedness.”