Israeli Security Expert Warns of Army Disintegration Amid Political Crisis
A senior Israeli security expert has warned that the disintegration of the Israeli army model will have serious implications for Israeli security and deterrence. Tamir Hayman, the director of the Israeli National Security Research Institute, wrote in an article in the newspaper “Israel Hayom” that Israel is facing dramatic times and that the army is no longer immune from the political crisis that has gripped the country.
Hayman argued that the Israeli army is in the midst of the event and that the expectation that it would remain outside of it was naive considering the fact that it was the people’s army in the full sense of the word. He stressed that the spirit of volunteerism and initiative in the army is essential for its professionalism and eligibility, especially in the Air Force, the Intelligence Division, and the elite units, which give Israel cyber, technological, and special capabilities.
He warned that weakening the motivation to serve these groups would erode the air deterrence equation, which is a psychological element that can only be measured when it fails. He said that a slight change in the balance of deterrence could lead to severe repercussions for Israel. He called for preserving the people’s army model, which he said is critical for Israel’s security.
Hayman cited several examples of how volunteerism is in existential danger in the army. He mentioned that 161 Air Force Reserve Officers announced immediate termination of volunteering due to their dissatisfaction with the political situation. He also pointed out that becoming an officer in the Israeli army is based entirely on volunteering and on the desire of young people to continue contributing to the Israeli army and the country. He said that without the reserve system, which is based almost entirely on volunteerism, the Israeli army would be a small army with much more limited capabilities than those that exist today.
Hayman said that Israel continues to injure itself these days, and that it will take time to heal the wounds. He urged for a national dialogue and reconciliation to restore trust and cohesion in Israeli society and its army. He said that only a strong and united people can face the increasing threats and challenges in the region.
The Israeli political crisis began in 2018, when Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases. He denied any wrongdoing and refused to resign, claiming that he was the victim of a political witch-hunt.
Since then, Israel has held five snap elections in less than four years, in April 2019, September 2019, March 2020, March 2021 and November 2022. None of these elections resulted in a clear majority for any party or bloc, leading to repeated rounds of coalition negotiations and deadlocks.
The main division in the Israeli political scene was between the supporters and opponents of Netanyahu, who is the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history. His allies included far-right and religious parties, while his rivals included centrist, left-wing and Arab parties. Some parties, such as the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu and the right-wing Yamina, were ambivalent about joining either camp.
In April 2020, after the third election, Netanyahu reached a power-sharing agreement with his main challenger, Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White party. They formed a unity government that was supposed to rotate the premiership between them after 18 months. However, the coalition collapsed in December 2020 over disagreements on the state budget and other issues.
In March 2021, after the fourth election, Netanyahu failed to form a government with his right-wing and religious allies, who did not have enough seats to secure a majority. He also faced opposition from some of his former allies, such as Naftali Bennett of Yamina and Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu, who accused him of putting his personal interests above the national interest.
In November 2022, after the fifth election, Netanyahu finally managed to form a narrow government with his loyal partners and some defectors from other parties. However, his government faced strong resistance from the opposition, which included a diverse coalition of parties from across the political spectrum. The opposition accused Netanyahu of undermining Israel’s democracy and rule of law by passing controversial laws that weakened the Supreme Court and other institutions.
The political crisis coincided with a series of security challenges for Israel, such as the escalation of violence with the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, the threat of Iran’s nuclear program and regional influence, and the instability in neighboring countries like Syria and Lebanon. Some analysts argued that Netanyahu exploited these security issues to rally his base and divert attention from his legal troubles.
The political crisis also sparked mass protests and social unrest in Israel, as thousands of people took to the streets to demand Netanyahu’s resignation or support his policies. The protests were often met with police violence and counter-protests by Netanyahu’s supporters. The political polarization also increased the tensions between different groups in Israeli society, such as Jews and Arabs, secular and religious, and left and right.