IDF cancels large drill planned for September, citing financial woes

Decision to scrap the exercise, in which thousands of reservists were to take part, comes amid negotiations between military and treasury over defense budget

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

IDF special forces take part in an exercise  in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF special forces take part in an exercise in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli military on Wednesday announced it was canceling a major exercise planned for September, citing insufficient funding amid an ongoing row with the Finance Ministry over the defense budget.

The drill was meant to test the Israel Defense Forces’ ability to move rapidly from routine to wartime operations in the event of “a massive multi-front scenario,” the military said.

“The routine-to-emergency transition exercise that was planned for September will be canceled. That is what IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi decided today as part of a prioritization process of IDF missions for 2020, in light of shortages in the budget, which are currently being discussed,” the military said.

Thousands of reservists were meant to take part in the exercise, according to the IDF.

Officers in the IDF Northern Command give a briefing to IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, center, and other top officers during a surprise exercise in northern Israel in November 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

“Therefore it was decided to cancel it well in advance before the reservist call-up orders were sent out,” the military said.

The IDF has effectively been operating without a formal budget since the start of 2020 as there was no government to approve a new one. Instead, each month is was allocated one-twelfth of its 2019 annual budget, which the IDF believed to be insufficient for its multi-year Momentum Plan to revamp the army.

The military has been negotiating a new budget with the Finance Ministry, hoping to receive an increase in funding — a tough sell in light of the country’s current dire economic straits due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which at its peak left over a quarter of Israelis out of work.

In May 2014, the IDF undertook a similar tactic during budgetary negotiations with the Finance Ministry, canceling all training exercises for reserve units for that summer.

Last month, Kohavi made pleas for a budget increase, warning against complacency and a false sense of security from the relative calm in the region.

“This is the ‘security paradox’ — so long as there is calm and stability on security, we are inclined to forget how complicated it is to achieve. As long as there is security stability, a misleading feeling develops that the threats have diminished and a feeling develops that we can scale back our security needs,” Kohavi said in a speech.

“The Israel Defense Forces continued to prevent and drive out threats with unseen and covert warfare, by physically destroying and by neutralizing capabilities. These operations happen year-round and they give security and stability to the State of Israel, but they can be taken for granted. They shouldn’t be taken for granted and they obviously don’t happen by themselves,” he said.

A fully integrated battlefield as envisioned by the Israeli military as part of its Momentum Plan in February 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

In light of the coronavirus pandemic and its disastrous effects on the world economy, the Israeli government is expected to make significant cuts to the country’s budget, including to the military. Such a reduction would make it difficult for the Israel Defense Forces to fully implement its proposed “Momentum Plan” to make the military more effective and deadly.

“We are working and continuing with Momentum and are rolling out the multi-year Momentum Plan. The Momentum Plan is the answer to the gaps that we need to close and is the advantage that we need to develop over our enemies,” Kohavi said.

“Only by maintaining the muscles of the army can we fight and win when called upon,” he added.

The Momentum Plan, which was rolled out earlier this year, is meant to give the military the tools it needs to win future wars as quickly as possible by identifying the areas in which the IDF has a marked advantage over its enemies and using them to the fullest — areas like intelligence-gathering, technology and air superiority. The military proposed doing so both with internal reorganization, a process that is ongoing, and through large purchases of drones, air-to-ground missiles and other weapons, some of which have been completed and others that will likely be held up by the financial crisis.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed
Register for free
and continue reading
Registering also lets you comment on articles and helps us improve your experience. It takes just a few seconds.
Already registered? Enter your email to sign in.
Please use the following structure:
Or Continue with
By registering you agree to the terms and conditions. Once registered, you’ll receive our Daily Edition email for free.
Register to continue
Or Continue with
Log in to continue
Sign in or Register
Or Continue with
check your email
Check your email
We sent an email to you at .
It has a link that will sign you in.