The IDF and the Israeli Spirit

By Moshe Yaalon

The former Chief-of-Staff addresses the greatest threat facing the Jewish state.

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Adapted from the Zalman C. Bernstein Memorial Lecture in Jewish Political Thought, hosted by the Shalem Center and delivered by the author in Jerusalem on January 19, 2006.
I know of no other country in the world whose existence as an independent, sovereign state has been called into question for so long and in so many different circles as has Israel’s. This continuous existential challenge will be the foremost problem with which Israel and the Israel Defense Forces are going to have to contend for the foreseeable future.
As Israel approaches its sixtieth anniversary, it can pride itself on the wonderful achievements that have established it as a regional power. But its right to exist as an independent Jewish state is still a matter of dispute.
As we begin our examination of the balance of power vis-à-vis the State of Israel, we are immediately struck by its physical dimensions: Israel’s population and area are very small, and its natural resources paltry—there is even a lack of water. And yet Israel is still a formidable regional power. How?
The key to Israel’s strength lies in its human resources. Human capital is the key, first of all, to the country’s strength in the humanities, culture, poetry, music, and theater; but also to its scientific and technological strength, especially evident in high-tech, medicine, physics, and aviation. In each of these areas, economic power derives not from natural resources but from human ones.
The same can be said for Israel’s military strength. Israel has developed a sophisticated military force, which rests on state-of-the art weapons that are themselves put at the disposal of top-flight soldiers and commanders. Today’s IDF uses the most advanced weaponry on earth, excelling in its precision, mobility, durability, design, intelligence collection, and information management. Superior intelligence enables the IDF to locate low-level targets such as terrorists, to pass on the information in real time to decision makers (whether a commanding officer, a pilot, or the chief of staff), and to hit the target in the most accurate and surgical way possible. These capabilities are translated into a substantial military force, and not only in the sphere of anti-terrorist warfare. Both the development of weapons and the ability to put them to use can be based only on a high level of human capital.
Lieutenant-General (res.) Moshe Yaalon served as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces from 2002 to 2005. He is currently a distinguished military fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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