Jewish National Fund - We Only Have ONE ISRAEL


A working group of retired American and Israeli generals* met Monday July 17 to discuss Israel's changing security situation and the U.S. role in it. The event was sponsored by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). The retired officers discussed a number of issues which were of concern.

The role of technology in assuring security and stability in the post Cold War world was widely debated. It was agreed that new systems, such as the J- STARS detection and surveillance radar system could play a role in bolstering Israel's qualitative edge over its neighbors. However, the discussion demonstrated the transient nature of any new technological system, would could quickly become obsolete.

In addition, it was acknowledged by the group that any Israeli acquisition of high technology systems would be extremely expensive, and all of the generals questioned the ability and willingness of the Israeli government or the U.S. government to assume such burden. It was also made clear by the panel that traditional indicators of the threat to Israel, such as the strategic balance, and state intention and legal states of war were as important as advanced technology.

Proliferation of surface-to- surface missiles in the Middle East emerged as a major specific concern of the generals. The inability to effectively detect missile launching sites and respond to launches was noted. The most worrying trend was clearly the potential of the combination of missile with a chemical or biological warhead.

This threat was worrying both to the U.S. and Israel, although obvious geographical proximity meant that Israel was even vulnerable to short-range attack.

The downsizing of the U.S. military was seen as a severe limitation of American capabilities in the region. There was a consensus that, at present, the U.S. military was not equipped to fight two simultaneous major regional conflicts. Deficiencies in airlift abilities were particularly highlighted by the American generals, who believed that an operation similar to the 1973 American airlift to Israel was presently impossible. The military cutbacks would force an examination of America's international commitments. Part of this, the generals agreed, would be a post-Cold War re- evaluation of Israel's strategic worth to the U.S. The American generals feared that Israel would increasingly be seen as a burden by the American public, despite its enduring value as the only stable democracy in the region.

Israel was cautioned by the panel to pay more attention to the views of the U.S. Congress. The conservative body is exerting more restraint over White House foreign policy initiatives and has indicated an unwillingness to provide large funds for foreign aid projects and programs.

Press questions focused attention around the issue of the Golan Heights. It was clear that all the issues that the generals discussed did impact on the desirability of Israel to withdraw from the Golan. The panel members were skeptical of any role for U.S. soldiers on the Golan, especially with the impact of the cutbacks to the size of the military.

The generals were divided over the issue of the value of strategic depth provided by the Golan. Some believes that present and future technology could provide protection equivalent to an armed Israeli presence on the Golan. It was acknowledged by the group that such a technological package would be prohibitively expensive. Indeed, much of the requisite technology does not exist today. They all agreed that the value of territory in warfare has not been diminished by the advent of ballistic missile warfare. However, they noted that even modern land-based sensors could not detect missile launches.

The panel stressed the need for such events not to advocate policy, but to rationally examine the military consequences of the developments affecting Israel's security situation.


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