For Israeli Military, Armor's Out, Cyber Is In

The Face of the IDF Is Changing With Threats

Tanks for the Memories: Is it time to bid farewell to the storied Merkava tanks that have defended Israel for so long?
Getty Images
Tanks for the Memories: Is it time to bid farewell to the storied Merkava tanks that have defended Israel for so long?

By Paul McLeary

Published September 08, 2013, issue of September 06, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Officers in the U.S. Army have long envied the “short drive” they claim the Israel Defense Forces has to reach its front lines, bemoaning the tyranny of distance when deploying to places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Having relatively short distances to go when meeting a threat means that the IDF is able to go in hard and heavy without the vicious logistics tail that accompanies American operations, making the problem of repair and maintenance a matter of days rather than weeks.

A glance at the slow, expensive withdrawal from Afghanistan illustrates the point perfectly. The Army says that the eye-watering cost of flying or floating home the $28 billion in gear it has in the country makes leaving some behind a matter of necessity. As a result, only about $22 billion worth of equipment will go home by the end of 2014. The situation is so desperate that the Army is literally shredding — in giant industrial-sized shredders shipped to Afghanistan — about 2,000 of its hulking Mine Resistant Ambush Protected infantry carriers before it leaves.

For reference, those MRAPs cost between $500,000 and $1 million apiece, and the oldest ones in America’s arsenal were built in 2008.

Make no mistake, the Army isn’t doing this because it has money to burn. It’s doing so because the money is drying up, and bean counters found that in the end it’s simply cheaper to eat the cost of destroying 2,000 vehicles in the Hindu Kush than it is to bring them home.

But while the IDF and the Army exist in different worlds when it comes to the logistic struggles they have to surmount when fighting their wars, they have been newly united in their need to rather quickly meet fresh challenges: reducing manpower, reducing (relative) firepower and reducing their budgets. And fast.

As a result of political pressures in both Washington and Jerusalem to curtail costs, both ground forces are betting their futures on a smaller, lighter, more technically capable power that will need to do everything from fighting terrorists to facing off against other states, and do it with fewer soldiers.

In July, the Israeli military presented its plans to cut 1.5 billion shekels from its 40 billion shekel budget by 2014, followed by another 3 billion shekel cut in 2014, with the ground forces slated to take the brunt of the cuts — the same kind of changes that have become all but a fait accompli for the U.S. Army.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.