Israel: Why Land Matters, Part III

Posted: May 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

It is an undisputed fact that Israel’s army reserves are the backbone of the IDF in times of war. The question, therefore, is: how does Israel buy the 48 hours it must have to fully mobilize and deploy its army reserves?

Israel’s citizen army naturally mobilizes its reserve troops where they live. This means primarily an “L” shaped land mass, from Jerusalem at one end and Haifa at the other with Tel Aviv in the middle. Along this short and narrow strip resides some 70 percent of Israel’s population (and 80 percent of its industrial base) and therefore, about 70 percent of the nation’s reserve soldiers (as well as 70 percent of its labor force).

Even before Israel has the opportunity to field the full complement of its army, including its reserves, in time of war, Israel must prevent this area from being overrun by an invading enemy. Should the enemy forces succeed in cutting into the “L”, the damage to Israel’s mobilization and deployment process might well be beyond repair. Worse, if the invasion force cannot be stopped before the fighting reached the main cities, Israel would have lost the war.

This grave situation is recognized by Israel’s military, even if not fully grasped by all its politicians. In 1952, IDF Chief of Operations General Yitzhak Rabin ordered IDF Chief of Planning Colonel Yuval Ne’eman (who helped organize the IDF into a reservist-based army, developed the mobilization system, and wrote the first draft of Israel’s defense doctrine) to conduct an exercise to test the IDF under conditions of a surprise attack, under the then-prevailing 1949 ceasefire lines, i.e. the pre-’67 lines known today as the “Green Line.”

The maneuvers were organized, and the ensuing results were a disaster. During the exercise, Israel’s first president, Dr. Chaim Weizman, passed away. The exercise was then cancelled to deal with the State funeral that had to be carried out. However, by that time the exercise’s “invading force” had conquered Petach Tikva and Ramat Gan, two cities surrounding the approach to Tel Aviv proper (the distance from the pre-’67 ceasefire lines to the outskirts of metropolitan Tel Aviv is a mere 11 miles), and had yet to be stopped in its tracks. It is this nightmarish situation that hung over Israel’s neck like the Sword of Damocles until the 1967 Six Day War and the extension of Israeli control over the Biblical mountain ranges of Judea and Samaria.

Imagine further, how much worse in reality the results of the 1952 exercise could have been if Israel’s enemies, large and small, added to the invasion force barrage after barrage of missiles onto Israel’s main population centers.

The “Land for Peace” concept, accepted and unquestioned in Western capitals (and by Israel’s political Left), if implemented, would seriously weaken Israel, even clearing the path to its ultimate destruction. The areas already given over to the control of the Palestinian Authority (and now also Hamas) has considerably complicated Israel’s defense in an all out war situation. Further territorial concessions would prove catastrophic.

The missile age has not made strategic depth irrelevant, it has made it even more vital. The advanced weapons systems and missiles now in the hands of the Arabs, make the threat of the reduction of Israel’s size back to pre-’67 dimensions potentially devastating. Permitting such a diminution would also be a foolhardy move on the part of the Western democracies. A truncated Israel, forced to concentrate all its defenses on high-population areas, would effectively become useless to those it currently serves so well as a major linchpin in the Western global strategy against the threat from radical Islamic expansionism.


Yedidya Atlas is a veteran journalist specializing in geo-political and geo-strategic affairs in the Middle East. His articles have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, Insight Magazine, Nativ, The Jerusalem Post and Makor Rishon. His articles have been reprinted by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the US Congressional Record.

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