The IDF has formulated a series of doctrinal documents and operational concepts, but the “IDF strategy” document is exceptional because it is well connected to the daily activity of the IDF
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, a Paratroopers Brigade officer who served as head of the operations division in the IDF’s Operations Directorate, wrote in his new book, Autobiography (Yedioth Books, 2018), that he recognized in the late 1990s that "what is really missing for the IDF is much more important – an official document that will describe holistically all that the army is capable of achieving in various war scenarios and how it thinks to do so." The IDF strategy document which the army published under the guidance of Chief of General Staff Gadi Eisenkot in 2015 was a courageous attempt to fill that gap.
The document, short and concise – as is customary in the Golani Brigade in which Eisenkot served – was exceptional both in its publication to the general public and because it anchored principles and logic of action to one constitutive document. Such an attempt by the IDF to formulate a strategic operational doctrine has not been attempted since David Ben-Gurion established Israel’s security concept in the 1950s.
The document defined the responsibility of the army to ensure the national goals of the State of Israel, including preserving its existence, territorial integrity and the security of its citizens and residents. The work defined four pillars upon which military action to address these threats would rest. The first three, deterrence, warning and decisive action, were defined by Ben-Gurion, while the fourth, defense, was officially recognized for the first time in this document, as a result of the growing threat to Israel’s home front. The document stressed that, in accordance with Israel’s Basic Law: The Military, the IDF is subordinate to the political echelon, and the General Staff alone must maintain contact with it and conduct a strategic dialogue with it on the goals of any given campaign.
The paper included the strategic concept of "campaigns between wars" (CBW), a series of operations with a unified strategic logic, aimed at weakening and reducing the enemy’s strength and creating "optimal conditions for victory in a future war." The CBW concept includes both covert operations outside the borders of the state, based on precise intelligence, to harm the enemy’s efforts and initiatives, and "overt action to create deterrence," aimed at illustrating "the limits of Israel’s restraint."
A clear example of such an overt action is Operation House of Cards, the recent attack by the Israel Air Force against Iranian bases in Syria, in response to the rockets fired by Iranian forces at IDF posts in the Golan Heights.
In the preface to the document, the chief of staff wrote that it would be "a compass for the use and construction of force," and this is evident in the multi-year plan (Gideon Doctrine) in which the elite divisions were improved and the commando brigade was established, to strengthen the IDF’s maneuvering capabilities. Already when it was published, it was clear that this was a living and breathing document that would be updated in accordance with changes in the nature of the threats Israel faces, changes to the battlefield and the structure of the IDF. Accordingly, last month the IDF published the updated version, an "IDF Strategy 2.0" If you will.
The updated document, too emphasizes the importance of land maneuver capability, that has been neglected in recent years. According to the principles laid out in the document, the army will employ "integrated, immediate and simultaneous" strikes, "using two basic elements: an effort to maneuver with rapid, lethal and flexible capabilities that operate in a multi-arms combination, [and] a precision and wide-scale effort based on qualitative intelligence."
According to this approach, land maneuvers must be "quick and lethal to targets perceived by the enemy as valuable," as was the case in the Six Day War. The concept therefore sees importance in the use of "disproportionate force," as the chief of staff said when he was the head of the Northern Command, so that at the end of the conflict deterrence is created and the enemy is required to engage in rehabilitation at the expense of intensification and hostile offensive activity.
In his book, Maj.-Gen. Eiland, who was my father’s company commander in the Paratroopers (after whom my younger brother and I volunteered for the paratroopers), claimed that the next high-intensity confrontation will require the use of force similar to the bombing of the Dahiya neighborhood in Beirut during the Second Lebanon War, in which Hezbollah headquarters were located. That air-strike demonstrated the IDF’s destructive potential, undermined Hezbollah’s legitimacy among the Lebanese population, strengthened deterrence and also caused increased involvement by the international community in efforts to achieve a cease-fire.
"Only a strategy that will cause a large number of [instances] of the Dahiya effect, and at the beginning of the war, will ensure that the next campaign is short and Israel victorious," he wrote.
It appears that IDF strategy follows the same lines of thought.
However, a military strategy document, no matter how comprehensive, must rely on a national security strategy formulated by a political echelon that defines the interests, objectives and vision of the state. Such a written concept, the kind published every year in the United States (and signed by the president), does not exist.
And what about a dialogue in which the political echelon and the General Staff define the goals of the various campaigns Israel is conducting? Is seems that when it comes to dealing with what is defined in the updated IDF strategy document as a Confrontation Complex against the Shi’ite axis: Iran, Hezbollah, the Syrian regime and the Shi’ite militias operating in Syria, such a dialogue does takes place, with good results.
On the other hand, in the Palestinian arena, with an emphasis on the Gaza Strip, such dialogue is lacking. Over the past two years, military commanders have warned that Israel must create economic incentives to improve living conditions in Gaza, and it appears that the political echelon has refused to listen. The army, which remained without a clear political directive except to prevent the fence from being breached, exercised great force, and rightly so. On the other hand, if the government had heed the army’s warnings, it would have been possible to avoid the scenario from arising in the first place.
Over the years, the IDF has formulated a series of doctrinal documents and operational concepts, but the "IDF strategy" document is exceptional because it is well connected to the daily activity of the IDF, both in the force buildup and the use of force in overt and covert operations. The chief of staff wrote in the preface to the original document, as well as in the updated version, that the army is not tested in formulating and updating strategy.
"The actual realization of the strategy in preparing the IDF for the challenges and its operation in various scenarios against emerging and existing threats are our supreme test," he wrote.
But without a comprehensive national security strategy formed by the government, the army will be operating in a vacuum.
The author is the founder and operator of the blog “In the Crosshairs” on military and security vision, strategy and practice.
(The article was published in "The Jerusalem Post", May 22, 2018)
The IDF has intensified its cognitive-related activity recently and engaged in a significant buildup process in this realm. This has included developing a cognitive operations doctrine and engaging in developing technological tools, training human resources, and building organizational frameworks supporting the doctrine. The use of overt capabilities by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit enables direct discourse with many target audiences in enemy states on the social media, as well as with terrorist elements. This is effected using the various capabilities developed in the IDF designed to create legitimacy in international target audiences, influence the enemy, and even maintain deterrence. The current development of technology in the social media, whether overt or covert, constitutes a strategic asset for Israel alongside traditional kinetic assets.
In late January 2018, IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manlis published an article in the Arab media, warning Lebanon’s citizens of “Hezbollah’s hooligan-like behavior, the establishment of terror infrastructures and plants for manufacturing weapon systems under the very eyes of the Lebanese government, and the undisturbed military deployment within the civilian population.” Manlis added that Lebanon’s citizens had better not “let Iran and Hezbollah exploit the naiveté of Lebanon’s leaders and establish plants to produce precision missiles, as they have lately attempted.” The IDF is fully prepared for any eventuality, and “as we proved in previous years – and those who need to know are aware of this – our security red lines are clear-cut, and we prove this every week.”
Manlis’s article provided a glimpse into a range of IDF overt and covert activities in the realm of cognitive operations, with the aim of delivering messages to target audiences in Lebanon, the region, and the world at large: namely, that buildup efforts by Iran and its proxy Hezbollah are clear to Israel, that Israel has the ability to act against them, and that therefore Lebanon’s citizens would be better off not to sanction these efforts, as they designate the civilian population as human shields in a future campaign.
The IDF engages in additional cognitive-related efforts vis-à-vis Hezbollah in Lebanon. Avihai Edree, in charge of the social media in the Arab world in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, conducts a heated online discussion in order to confront Hezbollah with various target audiences in Lebanon. In advance of Lebanon’s forthcoming elections, scheduled for May 2018, the Lebanese news website IMLebanon published an article reviewing IDF activity in the Lebanese social media. Under the headline “Whom Are You Laughing At?” Edree addresses Nasrallah directly, “Who commanded you to send youths to die in Lebanon? What interest did you have to be dragged in to a war that Lebanon has no part in, if not just the interest of Iran?” Confronting Nasrallah further, he charges, “Why did you, along with the Iranians, assassinate Badreddine?” It is hard to assess the impact of this activity on Hezbollah, but it appears that this activity has resonated in the Lebanese press and has potential for influence in the long term.
The IDF has recently intensified its cognitive-related activity and has engaged in a significant buildup process in this area. This has included developing a cognitive operations doctrine and engaging in developing technological tools, training human resources, and building organizational frameworks supporting the doctrine. In addition, the cognitive realm has been incorporated into IDF exercises. To be sure, the importance of the effort is not new and has long featured in the annals of war. “The importance of suppressing the fighting spirit of the adversary is no less important than the actual killing of its soldiers,” declared Carl von Clausewitz, emphasizing that the kinetic activity in the battlefield must be combined with activity designed to influence the enemy’s mindset.
Technological development enables a wide range of focused means of influence vis-à-vis various target audiences, and in effect creates another combat arena beyond the classic kinetic combat arenas. Armies and states find themselves having to contend with enemy efforts of influence that utilize the technological realm and social media in order gain achievements without resorting to the use of kinetic means or employ both types of tools together. This phenomenon requires armies and states to work both on the defensive plane, in order to counter enemy efforts, as well as on the proactive and offensive plane, in order to achieve objectives by influencing enemy target audiences, including decision makers, commanders, combatants, and domestic and world public opinion.
Cognitive efforts can be divided into three categories: (1) Covert efforts, whereby the attacked target is not aware that an effort to influence it is underway. In such operations, the messages are conveyed in a way preventing the target audience from identifying that it is subject to an influencing operation. An example might be messages transmitted by disguised elements. (2) Undercover efforts (also termed “operations under a false flag”), whose target, whether an organization, public, or country, is aware of the activity against it, but those behind it hide behind a false identity. An example is the campaign for the election of the Governor of Florida in 1994. Activists of Democratic candidate Lawton Chiles telephoned about 70,000 elderly voters, identified themselves as representing Republican candidate Jeb Bush, and told them that he intends to cut national insurance and medical aid to the elderly, subjects of critical importance to them. (3) Overt efforts, such as the messages in the article by the IDF Spokesperson to Lebanon, or IDF activity on the social media in Lebanon.
The common denominator of all types of cognitive efforts is that most of the activity takes place in the overt realm, conveying messages to the target audiences in the classic media (the press, television and radio) and via the internet, the social media, forums, blogs, and website advertisements. The overt effort bears with it most of the ability to influence and change public opinion, with respect to a large public or at the decision making level. The activity in the overt realm necessitates certain skills, primarily an understanding of mass psychology and the ability to analyze target audiences. In this context, the development of operational capabilities in armies in general and in the IDF in particular can benefit from the civilian world. Campaigns to influence various target audiences are the bread and butter of every advertising and public relations office marketing products or campaigning for politicians.
In the IDF, as in other armies, an ongoing debate concerns who should lead the influence operations. There is a traditional tendency, stemming from the “soft” nature of these operations and the closeness to psychological warfare, to associate them with the intelligence operations sphere. This is partly due to the fact that in the past these operations had to be based on focused intelligence; thus, the activity was directed to the covert intelligence field. However, in view of the fact that most of the operations take place in the overt realm and the skills needed involve activities in the public realm vis-à-vis various target audiences, it would be best for the IDF if those specializing in the field led these operations. Moreover, developments in recent years and the transfer of the operational arena to the overt realm necessitate building capabilities on a large scale, tapping all the operational capabilities of armies in general and of the IDF in particular for operating in the overt media.
The use of overt capabilities by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit enables direct discourse with many target audiences in enemy states on the social media, as well as with terrorist elements. This is effected using the various capabilities developed in recent years in the IDF, designed to create legitimacy in international target audiences, influence the enemy, and even maintain deterrence. The current development of technology in the social media, whether overt or covert, constitutes a strategic asset for Israel alongside traditional kinetic assets. There is considerable potential for activity in the overt sphere, including in the operational context, while in tandem maneuver and fire operations in the physical realm are intensified.
The cognitive battle consists of three efforts: preliminary (before the confrontation), concurrent (during), and following the confrontation and complements the principal campaign in the physical realm. The cognitive battle for the must be guided by an overall principle that incorporates all the relevant entities and authorities in the country, including the army, defense entities, and legal, financial, and diplomatic elements; it requires ongoing tasking of intelligence, both gathering and assessment. It is necessary to develop tools and capabilities for operating in the cognitive field, including responses to existing threats, ability to interdict evolving threats, and ultimately proactive attack capability to achieve objectives vis-à-vis various relevant target audiences. Therefore, IDF activity in the social networks used by the enemy bears considerable operational potential for Israel.
Dr. Col. (res) Gabi Siboni, former Commanded of Sayeret Golani and head of the Military and Strategic Affairs program at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). Gal Perl Finkel is the coordinator of the Military and Strategic Affairs program at the INSS.
(The article was originally published as an "INSS Insight" No. 1028, March 1, 2018)
Those who define redlines should be prepared to act when these lines are crossed
The escalated events over the weekend in the North exceeded several levels that has until now been the norm.
Firstly, it is a clear Iranian provocation. This is not a force that is supported and operated remotely by Iran, such as Hezbollah, but rather a clear and visible clash between Israeli and Iranian forces in which Iranian soldiers may have been killed. Second, the Israeli response is consistent with the doctrine recently presented by Minister Naftali Bennett, according to which Israel must act directly against Iran and not only against its proxies, including Hezbollah.
But the weekend of action does not stand in a vacuum, but rather joins a broader context of messages and moves, Israelis and Iranians alike, on the northern front.
Recently, Israel has been conducting an effort to deter Iran and the Hezbollah attempts to construct infrastructure for the manufacture of precision rockets in southern Lebanon. Indeed, missiles with heavy warheads and high accuracy are already in Hezbollah’s arsenal, in large numbers, and they also have significant range. But so far, the organization has been able to acquire them mainly through smuggling and arms shipments from Syria and Iran, and it seems there is a trend to cut out the middle man, or at least shorten the way.
As part of the effort, the IDF constantly presents high readiness for battle by exposing various exercises, including drills and publication of the acquisition of new weapons and capabilities. In addition, the IDF spokesperson, Brig.- Gen. Ronen Manelis, published an article in Arab media in which he warned the citizens of Lebanon that “Iran is playing with their security and future”. In the article, Manelis, a former intelligence officer, stated that Iran and its proxy Hezbollah are turning Lebanon into “one large missile factory”. This is no longer an issue of transferring arms, money, or counsel, he said. Iran has de facto opened a new branch, “the Lebanon branch – Iran is here”.
Israel identified the Iranian effort to establish missile manufacturing infrastructure in Lebanon some time ago, and sent threatening messages to Hezbollah. In addition to the IDF Spokesperson’s Office, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the time, during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, to warn that Israel would not allow Iran to establish itself in Syria and would not accept the existence of precision missiles in Lebanon – and given the need will act to prevent it.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot also used his speech at a ceremony marking the 21st anniversary of the 1997 “Disaster of the Helicopters” to convey a message, saying that Hezbollah “violates UN Security Council resolutions, maintains a military presence in the region, possessing weapons systems and increasing its military capabilities. In the face of these threats, the IDF operates day and night”. Eisenkot also noted that he is confident of Israel’s military superiority, “the quality of commanders and soldiers and their ability to achieve victory in times of war and to inflict painful damage on the enemy”.
It is clear that Israel is making an effort to clarify for its enemies, as well as the international community, its redlines, in order to prevent and deter their crossing.
“We are following the processes of arms transfers in all sectors of the fighting”, former chief of staff Benny Gantz once said. “This is a very bad thing, which is very sensitive, and from time to time, when things are needed, things can happen”. If Israel’s message falls on deaf ears, one can cautiously assess that the need will arise and things may happen.
But a strike against the missile manufacturing facilities could be cause for severe Hezbollah response; the other side also has redlines. One of them is an attack on Lebanon and a violation of its sovereignty. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that Israel, which radiates readiness and determination mainly for deterrence, will operate covertly.
Walking on the threshold of war by means of deterrence, and the possibility of miscalculation of one of the parties, or, alternatively, a too successful action which obligates the other side to respond harshly, requires Israel to be prepared for a confrontation. In a lecture given at the at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies (JISS) last December, former deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan said that in the next campaign Israel must take full advantage of the asymmetry between it and the hybrid terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas, and activate “the maximum of Israeli power at the same time on all enemy formations, everywhere, in the shortest time possible”.
The reality of confrontation with Hezbollah in Lebanon is well known to Golan. He did most of his service as a soldier and commander in the 35th Paratroopers Brigade. In 1987, he commanded the Paratroopers’ anti-tank company in “Operation Green Eyes” against Hezbollah headquarters in the village of Maydoun. At dawn, snipers from IAF special forces unit Shaldag opened fire on Hezbollah operatives, while at the same time the force led by Golan fired anti-tank missiles at Hezbollah positions and vehicles.
Later on he commanded the 890 Battalion and a regional brigade in Lebanon, and led the Nahal Brigade during “Operation Defensive Shield,” and before he served as deputy chief of staff he was the OC Northern Command. During the Second Lebanon War in 2006 he sent a letter to the chief of staff, Dan Halutz, in which he suggested launching a largescale ground operation. His proposal was declined.
Hezbollah has grown stronger and more experienced since 2006 and constitutes a grave threat to Israel’s home front. To remove the threat quickly, said general Golan in his lecture (just as he wrote in his letter to Halutz), “IDF ground forces must be used in a very decisive and very effective manner”. This rule, as well as the additional significance of a possible war in the north, should be taken into consideration by the government as it forms a policy against the emerging threat in Lebanon. Those who define redlines should be prepared to act when these lines are crossed.
The author is the founder and operator of the blog “In the Crosshairs” on military and security vision, strategy and practice.
(The article was published in "The Jerusalem Post", February 12, 2018)