Alwaght- The crisis in the occupied territories in recent weeks has turned into a political abyss to the Israeli cabinet, with some experts talking about undermining the Israeli security pillars and also about a possible civil war. In this regard, in recent days, there have been reports by Israeli media about breakdown of the Israeli military structure, causing concerns among Israeli officials.
In the latest reports, 700 reserve soldiers signed a petition on Saturday, warning Prime Minister Netanyahu that if the judicial reforms proposed by the cabinet are implemented, the structure of the army reserve forces will collapse. Also, hundreds of army officers warned the cabinet hardliners that they will resign if the government insists on implementing these controversial reforms.
Maarive newspaper reported on Saturday that 250 officers with colonel and higher ranks in the security apparatus published a statement accusing Netanyahu and his cabinet of “damaging Israeli security” and establishing hate, horror, fraud, division, and disunity among the Israelis.
In addition to the mutiny by the commanders and the breakup of the reserve forces, the increase in the number of suicides among the soldiers of this regime is presenting another issue for the military, to the extent that the chief of staff of the armed forces is “greatly worried” and demands to prevent similar incidents. Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army Herzi Halevi addressed in a speech the increase in the number of suicides among the soldiers and assessed this as a “dangerous and difficult phenomenon” for the army. Three army soldiers have committed suicide in the past month, said reports. In December, Israeli media outlets reported the suicide of 14 military personnel in 2022.
According to reports, more than 40 percent of the army forces suffer from psychological disorders, and the Israel Defense website reported that from 2010 to 2020, 5,380 suicides were recorded in occupied territories, with large part of them related to army soldiers. Also, in recent days, Alon Helzberg, an officer of the army, reported that 42 percent of army soldiers request psychological assistance from health centers and this has become a regular issue.
Earlier, Haaretz had reported that the firing of rockets by Palestinian resistance groups at Israeli settlements in the West Galilee over the past weeks caused an increase in requests for psychological care in health and treatment centers. This Israeli newspaper added that the number of Israeli applicants for psychological help has increased “hundreds of folds.”
In recent years, many reports have been published about the suicide of Israeli soldiers and the occurrence of mental disorders among them. Two years ago, an Israeli soldier committed suicide out of fear of conflict with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and more of these cases have been reported among other soldiers. The statistics published by Israeli media show that hundreds of soldiers have suffered from depression and mental illnesses due to the effects of their defeats against the Palestinian resistance groups in the past decade. The repeated admissions of Israeli security and political authorities that they have lost their deterrence against the resistance groups, experts say, would leave a great psychological impacts on the soldiers, and therefore this increasing number in recent years will take on an even more exponential trend.
Since the hardliners assumed the power in the cabinet, the army forces have sided with the opposition against Netanyahu’s controversial policies, and there have been many reports of commanders rebelling, soldiers deserting the barracks, and pilots disobeying the orders of the hardliners.
The breakdown of the army body comes while Netanyahu was trying to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities by relying on these forces. He also sought to ensure the security of the settlers by pushing to destroy the Palestinian resistance groups in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but now he must think about how to reorganize the army forces to prepare them to at least defend the home front.
Organizational structure of Israeli military
The Israeli military, officially known as Israel Defense Forces (IDF), consists of air force, army, and navy, and since it finds itself surrounded by threats due to its occupational nature, it has been equipped with most modern Western weapons. Though in terms of manpower it does not have elite forces, the Israeli military has been transformed into one of the most modern militaries in the world thanks to procurement of state-of-the-art American and Western weapons and technology.
Since the establishment of the Israeli regime, its guiding principles were based on its need to defend itself against its numerically superior neighbors. The basic element of Tel Aviv’s military doctrine is the belief that it must not lose any war. Army planners believe that this goal can only be achieved through a defense strategy that consists of rapid and extensive mobilization of forces to engage in war.
Since the Israeli regime was based on a strict security structure from the outset, military service is compulsory for many Israelis above 18. Military service is compulsory for Jews and Druze, both men and women, and for Circassian men, but not for religious missionaries and married women, women with children, and men who are engaged in religious studies. The conscription length is 32 months for men and 24 months for women, followed by a several-decade compulsory reserve period until the age of 50 for women and 55 for men.
The total reserve days quota for each soldier in the Israeli conscription law is 36 days per year, and the defense minister has the mandate to extend it by another seven days if the need arises. The cases defined in the law may extend this period for reservists who have specific jobs and professions.
According to the latest figures, the IDF have 176,500 active military personnel, 133,000 of them serving in the army, including 107,000 conscripts. The navy has 9,500 active-duty sailors, and 34,000 serve in the air force. The total number of reservists is 565,000.
Given these statistics, the number of active soldiers and reserve forces that these days are breaking down includes almost 90 percent of the military forces, and this is a serious threat to Tel Aviv, because in the event of a full-scale war outside the borders, they cannot rely on this shaky army body. The body of the regular and active-duty army is relatively small, and combat body rests on the reserve forces, which make up more than 70 percent of the military forces in full call-up, and these forces have no proper morale now, and the collapse of the backbone of the army is nightmarish for Tel Aviv.
Despite the fact that the military service in the Israeli regime is mandatory, the government by taking some measures tries to keep the military body stable by uplifting the public assurance. One of these measures is the payments to the conscripts. According to data, the conscripts earn $41,000 annually, $20 for an hour, and this is much higher for regular officers and high-ranking commanders. Army officials have also tried to encourage officers and non-commissioned officers to retire at the age of 45 at most to avoid rise of a military class with special interests. But even these incentives have not been able to convince the Israeli youth to serve in the army, and the refusal of thousands of people to continue serving in recent months is a good indication of the fact that the security crisis in the occupied territories is beyond what the hardliners in the cabinet portray.
Israeli army equipment
Since its foundation in 1948 having been under Arab blockade and isolation and having fought four wars with Arab countries and then several wars with the resistance groups in Palestine and Lebanon, the Israeli regime since the beginning tried to always update its weaponry, turning the small sized occupied territories into an arms despot. According to a report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in 2020, Tel Aviv spent $22 billion on its military. This regime had spent about $2,508 per person, and accordingly, 12 percent of the total government spending ($18 billion per year) has been allocated to military affairs.
According to latest reports, the Israeli army operates over 3,000 tanks, 10,484 armored vehicles, and 5,432 various types of artillery. Its navy has 3 Dolphin-class German-made tactical submarines and 57 guarding and war vessels including three corvettes. Its air force has nearly 100 fighter jets, over 200 helicopters, and about 60 transport planes that somehow make up the backbone of the Israeli regime, and in all wars with resistance groups the air force plays the biggest role, and from this viewpoint, the balance is in favor of Tel Aviv. Despite all these military weapons and possessing dozens of atomic bombs, the Israelis are extremely worried about their security future.
Collapse of Israeli dominance in front of resistance
Over the past seven decades, the military has made up the backbone of the defense of the security of occupied territories, and due to the military weakness of Arab countries, it relatively managed to tip the scales to its advantage. But these days the links of this backbone seem to be breaking. The spread of political crisis to the army causes this regime to act more conservatively against the resistance groups and refrain from any miscalculations. At present, the gap in the layers of the Israeli army has become the Achilles heel of the Israelis who always seek adventures in Palestine and the region. Actually, a powerful blow can knock out the Israeli regime and, as its President Issac Herzog warned, lead to its collapse.
People enroll in the Israeli armed forces because they are influenced by their leaders who claim Tel Aviv is the absolute power in the region and no country can confront it. But on the ground they find themselves so weak they cannot even defend themselves against the Palestinian youths and admit defeat against resistance groups. Therefore, they prefer to stay out of the crisis and avoid dangerous games of the hardliners that can bring painful consequence to the Israelis.