Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi has decided to hold a three-day seminar the first week in March devoted to how Israel can win a clear, decisive, irrefutable victory in the next war it fights.
Kochavi announced the seminar prior to being sworn in as IDF chief on Jan. 15. The IDF has appointed a number of teams that are charged with defining what comprises an IDF victory in each of their particular fields, and what issues or problems need to be addressed to ensure that victory.
All members of the general staff are slated to take part in the “Victory Seminar,” as it is being called, as well as division commanders and the IDF’s main brigadier generals. The seminar comprises the start of the IDF’s multi-year work plan, which will take effect in 2020.
The commanders are slated to work in groups to discuss changes in the IDF, changes with the enemy, and how to secure a military victory in light of those changes and the use of advanced technology.
Nor will the teams restrict themselves to looking forward. Kochavi has instructed participating commanders to prepare a “genealogy” of the entity for which they are responsible that will cover the history of the various sections of the IDF.
After the seminar, the IDF’s top commanders will devote a few days to a summation of the material discussed and then 10 teams will be appointed to assemble the military’s work plan, which the IDF expects to be ready by July. By that time, a new government should be in place to approve it.
In his first speech as chief of staff, Kochavi did not disguise his goal of victory, saying that “victory and mission focus are our main values, and we will approach every mission we undertake or with which we are charged with precision and determination and all the tools we have.”
He noted that part of his mission as chief of staff would be to make the IDF “lethal, efficient and innovative.”
Definition of military success
The question of what comprises a military victory today is a complicated one that the upper echelon of the IDF has spent considerable time addressing. Originally, the IDF was constructed to fight wars against countries, but in recent years, the threats have undergone a sea change. Whereas in the past Israel was locked in an existential struggle against standing armies, in recent decades the threats have become asymmetric and non-conventional.
The primary tactic wielded against Israel is terrorism, which is generally not considered a threat to Israel’s existence, whereas the non-conventional threat of nuclear annihilation is not considered a realistic scenario at this stage.
The enemies the IDF now faces operates at a low profile, from inside urban areas and underground. Whereas in the past, the IDF had to wage a lethal blow to the center of gravity of the enemy division it was facing, it now faces a multiplicity of “centers of gravity,” many of which are concealed, and a different approach is required.
Hamas and Hezbollah have frequently crowed that they see the fact that they still exist after their repeated clashes as a victory. However, Hezbollah’s theory that a lack of total defeat is a victory might have changed recently, with the Shi’ite organization placing more emphasis on heavy losses for Israel.
Either way, in the next full-scale conflict against terrorist entities, it might be difficult for either side to declare an absolute victory. Nevertheless, it will be vital for each side to secure the appearance of one.
“When it comes to a country vs. a terrorist organization, we don’t know how to present the picture of victory. What’s strong isn’t photogenic,” one senior commander once said. “Victory should come as a puzzle whose pieces are put together through hard work.”