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After Three Decades, IDF Prepares for a Hostile Southern Border

The IDF is preparing for a “new era” on Israel's southern border, in an era reminiscent of the pre-Camp David days of a hostile Egypt
By David Lev
First Publish: 6/28/2012, 10:49 AM

Soldiers in Gaza
Soldiers in Gaza
צילום: פלאש 90

The IDF is preparing for a “new era” on Israel's southern border, which actually is a rewind of history back to the days before the Camp David Accords. With the rise of what appears to be a hostile regime in Egypt, the IDF will be beefing up forces all along the Sinai border, and is asking the government for NIS 15 billion ($3.8 billion) for the construction of bases, installation of security equipment, and establishment of new training areas.

Analysts said that the new situation in Egypt necessitates the opening of a “fourth front” for the IDF. For decades, security along the southern border has been more relaxed, because of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, and the IDF was able to concentrate on trouble spots like Gaza and the northern border, as well as “distance missions.” Egypt's new President, Mohammed Morsi, who is identified with the Muslim Brotherhood, has said several times that he wishes to “reexamine” the Camp David Accords. Given his party's open hostility to Israel and its strong support for Hamas, Israel has decided that it can no longer regard the Egyptian border as a “normal” one.

A senior IDF official told the Israeli daily Ma'ariv that while no one expects Egypt to abrogate the Camp David Accords, the new situation requires extreme caution. And thanks to three decades of American military aid and support, the Egyptian army today is extremely sophisticated, and is equipped with the latest equipment, making it, for all purposes, a Western-type army, the official said. Egypt also has the largest army in Africa; it has about 470,000 regular troops and some 480,000 reserve troops. The IDF, by way of comparison, has 180,000 active duty soldiers, and about 560,000 reserve troops.

The IDF will ask for the NIS 15 billion increase to be funded over a five year period. Without this money, officials said, it will be impossible to upgrade the IDF's souther flank, making the country dependent on the graces of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. In a statement, an IDF official would not comment directly on the funding issue, saying that “as a matter of course the IDF is studying the changes in the region, and specifically in Egypt.”