IDF soldiers a Gaza border
IDF soldiers a Gaza border Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash90

The annual intelligence assessment for 2019 was presented to the IDF General Staff Wednesday, less than a month after Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi assumed his position as IDF Chief of Staff.

The situation on the Gaza border was considered the most pressing security issue facing Israel after Iran. The intelligence department estimates that the potential for an offensive initiative by Hamas and Islamic Jihad is very high and may occur even before the Knesset elections in April.

An offensive initiative can come in the form of an attack originating from a tunnel, a pinpoint operation such as shooting at a bus and anything that will shock the system without drawing Israel into a war, but could still bring a significant Israeli response.

Hamas faces significant challenges and wants to lift the siege on Gaza. The terror group is therefore willing to take actions that will force Israel to exhaust all possibilities, and may consider election time a good time to do this.

According to the intelligence assessment, the Judea and Samaria region has a strategic potential for escalation, but not at the same level as Gaza. According to the report, he cause of the escalation could be the unveiling of President Trump's peace plan, the departure of Mahmoud Abbas or other elements on the ground which could inflame the situation.

As for the northern arena, Syria, or as it is called in the defense establishment - Sadadistan - it is also a challenge where the likelihood of reaction scenarios rises in light of the attacks on Israel.

As for Hezbollah and Lebanon, their plan of attack was severely hampered, but not fully neutralized during the destruction of Hezbollah's cross-border attack tunnels. Hezbollah does not have the capability to manufacture precision rockets in Lebanon today, but the organization is making constant efforts to change this reality.

Above all, Iran is the "keystone" connecting virtually all threats in the region. The sanctions led to a severe economic crisis. For example, banana prices have risen by hundreds of percent, as have the prices other basic products, but Tehran has yet to make a decision about their response to the cancellation of the nuclear agreement and the renewal of US sanctions.

If the Iranians decide to unilaterally violate the agreement, they can restore enrichment capability within a year and build a nuclear bomb within two years. Alternatively, they can either wait until the Trump time passes or signal that they are willing to discuss the agreement and thus gain time.

A new challenge for the security establishment is Turkey, which is defined as a "rising hostile force." They have allocated more forces to learn about what is happening in Turkey under Erdogan.

Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi devoted his first month as chief of staff to these issues, making his first visit to the IDF Southern Command and the Gaza Strip, where he learned about and approved the operational plans for the coming year.

In order to meet the missile threat, Kochavi ordered the acceleration of the production of the Iron Dome system. By the end of the year Israel will possess eight Iron Dome batteries, eight in operation and to in reserve.

In light of the annual intelligence assessment, the army understands that the battles fought in future wars will be faster, more explosive, and will spread to remote areas as well. The new chief of staff therefore decided to expand the IDF's field training. Every two years the armored and engineering forces will carry out 17 weeks of training and 17 weeks of deployment with the infantry brigades, which would require another 15 reserve battalions to be employed each year.

Another issue that the chief of staff has decided upon in light of the lessons of the past is the establishment of a military objectives directorate, which will beshared by the Air Force and the Ground Forces, with an emphasis on the Intelligence Branch, which will collect information on additional targets in order to increase the rate of production of military objectives.

In order to make the information immediately available, the IDF is now working on an advanced operational Internet network that will bring the information collected faster, more efficiently and more reliably.

Another decision that the chief of staff undertook when he took office was to strengthen the operational edge by supplying weapons, optics and anti-tank missiles in order to strengthen the army's capabilities in the field.