The Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

A proactive approach against Iran’s proxies is needed.

Recent years have demonstrated that although Israel’s use of force may have slowed down the development of Iran’s plans, it has not been enough to derail the forces of the Shiite axis. Iran’s resolve presents Israel with a choice: either to take a strategic initiative against enemies that are still weaker than Israel is or to opt for a passive strategy that might lead to war against enemies who, together, represent conventional force close to symmetrical with Israel’s. In practice, this means a transition from a defensive strategy based on the “Iron Dome approach” to an offensive approach that places an “iron wall”[1] against Iran’s ambitions.


The IDF has long had to face dilemmas related to asymmetrical wars. A General Staff debate that took place almost 30 years ago about the future of war – occurring in the shadow of the devastation of the large regular Iraqi military by the professional U.S. Army, which in practice was much smaller in terms of fighting formations – an army expert caused some discomfort to the members of the General Staff forum by claiming that the era in which the state was the organization conducting wars was drawing to a close. The outcome would not be a world without wars, but a world characterized by asymmetrical conflicts. The future, he said, would feature wars against non-state organizations, and added that the past, including the recent past, proved that conventional armies are not well organized to confront such wars.[2]

This prediction has, in fact, come true. At least for now, conventional wars in our region are on the wane and the existential threat they represent has been lifted. But they have given way to wars and military campaigns that end without a clear decision. The expectation that the unquestioned dominance of Western societies would lead to global stability and that the West would be able to quell centers of opposition quickly and efficiently has proven illusory. The three decades that have passed since the “end of history” was being debated have shown that not only is the dominance of the West being challenged but there is even great doubt if overconfident Western democracies have the ability and, no less importantly, the political will needed to face the challenges of asymmetrical wars of the twenty-first century.

These insights have burrowed into the core of Israel’s military-defense theory and led to profound changes. Israel’s military doctrine, which sought to attain a military decisive victory in the context of total war, using rapid ground maneuvers against the enemy armies deep inside their territories, was replaced by ideas and approaches against new threats emanating from organizations operating irregularly, relying in particular on guerrilla warfare and terrorism. Striving for a clear victory was replaced by a desire for limited achievements, especially public opinion successes, based on the realization that the ultimate resolution would be attained somewhere other than the military theater. The desire for short wars (at the end of which it is possible to discharge the reserves who represent the mass of the fighting force) made way for limited but extended campaigns and operations. On the operational side, standoff fire replaced ground maneuvers as the central effort. These trends have profoundly affected how the IDF prepares for war, how it operates, and, obviously, how it, in turn, approaches force design and construction.

In the context of this threat, the last campaigns against Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, and Hamas, as well as the other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, which also play a role in the Iranian regime’s regional strategy, have revealed some serious lacunae in Israel’s doctrine. After four rounds of fighting in the Gaza Strip (and several shorter mini rounds), Israel finds itself back at square one, facing threats that are only growing more complex and menacing. On the one hand, the Iranians continue to develop their guerrilla and terrorist threats by means of their proxies, and, on the other, the nuclear project is up and running – both at breakneck speed.

Meanwhile, Israel continues to conduct its “Campaign Between the Wars” or to fight “in the gray zone.” This campaign is being run systematically, consistently, and with full force with the goal of ousting the Iranians from Syria and damaging Hezbollah’s efforts to rearm with ever more advanced weapons. Although the campaign is considered successful, it does not have what it takes to change the strategic reality of the overall campaign being waged against Iran.

What is becoming increasingly clear is the fact that Israel’s strategy – or, more accurately, Israel’s course of action – has played itself out. What is required is a new, comprehensive view of the strategic threat posed by Iran and its proxies. Long-term objectives must be articulated and new ideas on how to attain them must be formulated. These will be needed in the future to adapt the “tools” of the doctrine and the operational plans, given the challenges emerging at the security and military levels.

This essay argues that Israel finds itself at a critical decision-making crossroads. If Israel continues to maintain current trends and sticks to its existing defense strategy and force build-up, it might have to face a shrinking efficiency over the long term. This essay analyzes the challenge to security that Iran poses. Subsequently, the essay proposes guidelines for a long-term Israeli strategy whose objective is to undermine the Iranian regime’s plan and thwart the serious threat it poses.

“To Eradicate the Cancerous Growth”: The Iranian Strategy

It behooves us to understand the nature of the conflict developing between Iran and Israel. An examination to that end requires us to look at fundamental questions, such as: what underlies Iran’s ambitions; why does Iran view Israel as a central enemy; what are Iran’s strategic goals; how does Iran intend to realize them; what is the rationale behind the strategy it is advancing, and more.

Recently, there has been an increase in the worrisome signs related to the fundamentals of Israel’s national security. Iran is closing the distance to nuclear capabilities and growing more self-confident, calling into question the efficacy of any international mechanism to restrain it; as Iran’s proxy organizations – in many ways, these have become more powerful than state armies – gain in strength, threats are developing on Israel’s borders; the connections between the proxies and radical elements among Israeli Arabs, as was demonstrated to a limited measure during Operation Guardian of the Walls (May 2021), seem to be growing. In recent years, the Israeli defense establishment’s actions have been motivated by the desire to buy time. The dominant way of thinking is that either our situation is getting better, or the problems will solve themselves. However, the trends we see developing raise doubts about the validity of these assumptions.

From the perspective of the current Iranian regime, Zionist “colonialism” is a foreign implant, the last gasp of European imperialism in the Middle East. The obligation to eradicate it stems from the very deep cultural and religious understanding and belief embedded in the Muslim world’s historical struggle to return to its glory days and from the revolutionary ambition firmly rooted in the Shiite tradition as interpreted by Khomeini and his heirs. This is not a conflict between two nation-states in which it is possible to reach a compromise allowing one nation to live alongside another. The logical conclusion is that the Israeli Iranian conflict is characterized as a “revolutionary, anti-colonialist war” in which the occupier is destined to retreat and disappear as was the case in Algeria, Vietnam, and more recently in Afghanistan.

Paradoxically, it was precisely the intervention of the United States in the region, and subsequently the Arab Spring, that, for the Iranians, opened doors that had long been closed to them. The toppling of the Sunni bastion in Iraq by the U.S. Army and the Russian-assisted Alawite victory in Syria made possible the emergence of a Shiite arc of continuity from Yemen to the Mediterranean Sea. Regions of influence, military build-up, and self-confidence make the Iranian enemy more tangible for Israel and for the moderate Sunni nations. These factors are also responsible for the foundation of common interests leading to the forging of closer relations between Israel and the moderate Sunni states.

Iran is realizing a long-term strategy aimed at canceling out Israel’s advantage of force and accelerating the conditions for the Jewish state’s elimination by keeping low-intensity friction with Israel in the short run while building up their capabilities for the future all out conventional war. The Iranian leadership has marked 2040 as the year by which Israel will cease to exist as a state. To the Iranian regime, it is clear that Israel, as a political entity and military power, is the major barrier to the fulfillment of its vision, forming the basis for the Israeli Iranian conflict. No compromise is possible, because the achievement of Iran’s goals is insufferable from Israel’s perspective; on the other hand, ceding the dream of the Islamic revolution’s hegemony is tantamount to cracking the regime’s foundations. This meta-strategy is liable to pose a fundamental or even an existential threat to Israel in the not-too-distant future. While pronouncements by radical leaders are not unusual in the Middle East, what lies behind Iran’s ideology and declarations of intent is force build-up and real action. These, coupled with the willingness to sacrifice and pay the price are indicative of Iran’s resolve to realize its vision.

Since 1979, the vision of the Iranian revolution has been to establish a Shiite caliphate in the Middle East. This is a historic move of tremendous significance for the Shia, based on the regime’s interpretation, rather than a passing caprice or rhetorical flourish as many would like to think. The vision is meant to be a liberation from Western imperialism, which – according to the Tehran regime – is guilty of retarding Islam’s development and of aiding the dominance of the Sunnah, with which the Shia has a long and bloody account to settle. The Iran-Iraq war offered a preview of the sacrifice the Iranians are willing to make to realize their ambitions. It also seared in their memory the meaning of unconventional weapons asymmetry, a memory that lies at the core of its nuclear project.

The Iranian nuclear program was designed to create a strategic balance with Israel and allow Iran to advance its plan for achieving regional hegemony. The nuclear bomb is meant to provide Iran not only with the defense necessary against Western attacks but also to deter Israel from using the nuclear bombs. Offensively, Iran wants to advance its strategic goals by using the conventional capabilities it is constructing around Israel’s borders. The combination of a conventional fire attacks primarily by missiles on Israeli soil and deterrence of Israel from responding with unconventional means is the foundation for Iran’s entire strategic rationale.

For now, Iran’s strategy is still defensive. At this point, the major objective of the strongholds it has built is to protect its regional interests and to threaten Israel via its proxies on Israel’s borders. This is the main reason for the relative calm Israel has enjoyed for the past few years. When Iran feels that the conditions are right, it will go on the offensive by focusing attacks on what it considers to be Israel’s central weakness – its society.

The Iranian war plan is designed to generate tremendous pressure on Israel’s society and undermine its confidence, eventually leading to its gradual collapse. Massive missile fire at Israel’s home front coupled with the conquest of key territories in the Galilee and Golan and an internal uprising within Israel and Judea and Samaria can, to their mind, cause massive damage and disrupt Israel’s war effort. An extended war of attrition would result in many casualties, erode morale, and lead to a profound social crisis in Israel. The Iranian regime’s belief that the Zionists do not belong here strengthens their assessment that a severe and tough war would cause the strong elements of Israel’s population to move back to their countries of origin in Europe and the United States and leave behind a weak society that would finally implode.

This is the Iranian regime’s path to attain its goals and realize its vision. Yet, it is amply clear that Israel’s strategy has not provided an effective response to the threat, either conceptually or operationally in terms of force build-up. The traditional concepts and tools that were meant to respond to past challenges, primarily a war against conventional armies have not been adapted to fit a world of limited operations and campaigns. The results have been questionable.

Without an appropriate military strategy, small Israel, which under difficult conditions defeated the regular armies of Arab nations, finds it difficult to score victories against organizations much weaker than itself. While in previous decades Israel paid a relatively tolerable price for the unwillingness to intellectually face such conflicts, it is becoming clear that a continuation of these trends   leads to a rise in threats to Israel’s national security in the near future.

“Active Defense”: Guidelines to an Israeli Security Strategy

Israel’s Defense Strategy demands action that thwarts dangerous trends liable to pose threats to national security. The fact that Israel’s strategy is defensive does not mean that it is necessarily passive. On the contrary: when the Shiite enemy is determined to shatter Israel’s security, Israel must adopt a proactive approach to derail the Iranian regime’s plans. Instead, it seems that the leadership’s temptation of short-term peace and quiet, while hoping that “things will work out” over the long term, often leads to a passive approach also at the operational level.

An examination of Israel’s conduct over the last 15 years shows that, despite several operations and campaigns, the forces of the Iranian axis in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and Syria continue to gain strength. As their military strength grows, so does their influence – Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories and even among Israeli Arabs. This development is fully aligned with Iran’s general strategy. In fact, a worrisome possibility is emerging from the talks on the nuclear agreement. On the one hand, it seems impossible to stop Iran, whether through economic or diplomatic means, from continuing to develop its nuclear capabilities. On the other hand, there is no political entity willing and capable of assuming the difficult challenge of a military strike that could set back Iran’s nuclear program.

Recent years have demonstrated that the use of Israeli force, even if it has slowed down the progress of the Iranian project, has not managed to derail the forces of the Iranian axis, and this requires dealing with some fundamental questions currently absent from the Israeli discourse on national security. The major ones are: how does Israel intend to solve the problems posed by the Shiite axis? What are the objectives of the Israeli strategy and how does Israel strive to realize them? These answers to these questions are urgent and critical. Contrary to the common thinking, the strategic clock is not ticking in Israel’s favor.

The Iranian regime’s resolve offers Israel a choice between a strategic initiative against enemies still weaker than the state and a passive strategy liable to lead to war in the relatively near future with Iran, Hezbollah, Syria, and Hamas, which together possess a conventional force that is close to symmetric with Israel’s. The strategic choice, then, is between accepting the development of a growing threat and trying to change its direction by means of a proactive security strategy.

To translate this into practice, Israel must make a transition from the “conflict management” approach, which has characterized the field of security in recent years, to an approach whose purpose is to undermine Iran’s strategy, i.e., exchange the defensive approach represented by the Iron Dome system to an initiative that drops an “iron wall” against Iran’s ambitions. The idea is not merely to minimize the damage resulting from the aggression of the Shiite axis, but to exploit every opportunity to extract a heavy toll from the enemy, set back its capabilities, and keep it far from achieving its goals.

The objective of the strategy is to thwart the Iranian one: in the short term, to keep its influence from growing and spreading, and, in the long term, to dissuade the Iranians from pursuing their hegemonic ambitions. Attaining this objective requires the development and use of all of Israel’s national security tools: strengthening Israel’s regional alliances with the moderate Sunni states; strengthening the governability among Israel’s Arab citizens; and maintaining close strategic coordination with Western nations, especially the United States. It will also require the development and use of all military tools, including ground maneuvers. The analysis below focuses primarily on the military aspects.

“Attacking the Messenger”: The Indirect Military Strategy

The conventional Israeli strategy is based on a direct approach. It maintains that it is necessary to “cut the head off the snake”. To do so, Israel steers tremendous resources to its air force and intelligence capabilities, critical for dealing with “third circle”[3] enemies (e.g., Iran). However, doing so weakens Israel vis-à-vis the first circle (the enemies situated on Israel’s borders), which is based on the operational ability of ground forces. And, as these trends develop, Iran’s ability to deter Israel from action becomes more effective, both with regard to the nuclear issue and with the regard to Iran’s operational bases located in the first circle. This state of affairs must be completely upended.

Iran’s strategy relies on the forces of the Shiite axis stationed on Israel’s borders in Lebanon and Syria and the use of its allies and proxies in Gaza.[4] Their function is twofold: at present, they deter Israel from attacking the nuclear project and they will in the future serve as the tools with which Iran plans to attack Israel. The greater their strength grows, the more effective the Iranian strategy becomes.

The flip side of the coin is the fact that Iran’s forward bases placed at Israel’s borders are wholly dependent on Iran’s strategy. This is precisely Iran’s major key Achilles heel. Undermining the Iranian regime’s strategy requires Israel to attack Iran’s forward bases within the first circle with enough strength and frequency to outstrip the bases’ ability to regroup and reconstruct so that they are permanently weakened (the “Campaign Between Wars” in the “gray zone” is an example, though it is to date insufficient). These must become the central goals of Israel’s strategy. Israel cannot allow itself to rely only on airstrikes to achieve the goal of deterrence and on defensive systems to deny the enemy any successes. It will be necessary to operate the entire gamut of military means of force, including ground maneuvers, to achieve the goals of war leading to a long-term reduction in the intensity of the threat the Iranian axis poses to Israel.

The more Israel weakens the forces of the axis along its borders, the more Iranian deterrence will shrink, and Iran’s nuclear project and its forces will become more exposed and vulnerable to attack. Should Iran choose to cling to an offensive strategy, it will need tremendous resources to rebuild damaged axis forces. These will in turn exacerbate the regime’s dilemma between strengthening its domestic hold on the nation and its survival, on the one hand, and its dreams of expansion on the other. This will also send a powerful message to the radical forces that the Shiite axis is nurturing in Judea and Samaria and among Israeli Arabs.

To attain this, Israel will have to choose between two major alternatives. The first is a total war aimed at conquering the Gaza Strip and Lebanon and destroying the core of Hamas’s and Hezbollah’s military forces. This alternative would obviously entail far-reaching implications, including long-term control of territories and populations and laying the foundations for new regimes. History indicates that this approach leads to complications and tends to fail.

The desire to draw Israel into a long, bloody campaign is a clear interest of the Shiite axis. This is a foundational principle in irregular warfare designed to lead the campaign into a stalemate, exploit the strong side’s weaknesses to attack it, make it bleed, erode its fighters’ morale, and cause its citizens to despair. Israel’s interests and the advantages of regular troops are the opposite: to conduct short-lived, high-intensity campaigns. To emerge victoriously, Israel must force the axis to face it on its home court rather than be dragged into their trap.

These principles are the guidelines for a second alternative strategy, the core of which is to exploit every opportunity and every fraction of legitimacy to weaken the forces of the axis. To that end, Israel must focus its efforts on short, limited campaigns within the first circle of threat. Israel can exploit the clear advantage conventional armies have over guerrilla organizations, i.e., the obvious edge in maneuvering ability and firepower at the initial stages of a campaign, and, by contrast, avoid getting bogged down in thickly populated urban or semi-urban areas, where the advantage goes to the guerrillas.

The way to do so is by generating maximal pressure on the enemy from the first moment until the predetermined missions (see below) are complete. The geographical proximity of Israel’s base of operations to the various theaters of battle allows Israel to land painful blows on terrorist and guerrilla organizations and return the troops to their base without being required to pay a “presence tax.” It also allows Israel to land repeated blows at relatively short intervals as needed. The purpose of these campaigns would be to damage the organizations’ capabilities, weaken them, and set back their development.[5]

Just as was the case with Ben-Gurion’s view of “repeated rounds,” the proposal herein does not suggest one mighty blow to solve the problem once and for all but rather proposes a sequence of limited, high-intensity operations and campaigns to reduce the level of threat on Israel’s border that will project the nation’s resolve to oppose Iran’s imperialist ambitions and dampen the regime’s hopes that it will ever be able to attain its goals. The key to success in these campaigns and in the strategy overall is directly linked to the way in which Israel constructs its military force and the way it decides to use it.

“Fast and Furious”: The Goals and Tools of Limited Campaigns

Before discussing the tools, the goals the military force and the key principles for its application must be defined. The strategic objectives of every campaign based on these patterns are composed of three cumulative achievements: one, deny the enemy any strategic/military success; two, land a military blow through destruction of forces and military infrastructures; three, create conditions to prevent their reconstruction for a long time.

To achieve these goals, Israel must strive for the shortest campaigns possible, but nonetheless use high intensity and avail itself of all tools the IDF possesses. Short campaigns can potentially minimize damage to the rear, under threat from the start, allow the home front to better support the war effort, and deny the enemy the success of dragging Israel into a long, casualty-high war.

Attaining the necessary level of success in a short campaign will require Israel to quickly shift the war onto enemy soil and apply maximal pressure on the enemy from the first minute to achieve the goals, primarily, causing mortal damage and destruction of enemy infrastructures and installations and stopping fire aimed at Israel while issuing a credible and effective threat to the survival of the enemy’s leadership. These goals require the synchronized use of all the IDF’s capabilities.

Unlike the gradual campaign pattern, based on what is sometimes called the “escalation steps” or “calm will be answered by calm,” a pattern Israel has adopted over the last several decades and which was designed to attain tactical deterrence (in more everyday terms, to make the enemy pay a price to prevent escalation), Israel would have to escalate the campaign on its own initiative from the start. As we know, the enemy’s ability to adapt grows over time; time also increases the enemy’s ability to resist and decreases the IDF’s operational effectiveness. The advantage of a regular army lies in its ability to synchronize efforts from day one and for as long as it takes to complete the missions. This requires Israel to construct extremely robust joined forces maneuvering capabilities that can enter the campaign at the beginning, almost in tandem with the fires attack. This means well-drilled plans, and, at a later stage, short decision-making moves on the part of a resolute leadership.

It behooves us to remember that determined, decisive joined ground maneuvers are of value that goes beyond the direct operational outcome. This was well articulated by BG Giora Segal, who wrote: “The critical nature of ground maneuver in conflicts of various kinds is both strategic and cultural… From a cultural viewpoint, maneuvering on the ground is critical because the status of the land itself in the Arab worldview is of the utmost significance in the interpretation of victory and loss.”[6] In other words, if the heart of the Iranian strategy consists of the assumption of the weakness of Israeli society and its aversion to fighting, then this manner of the campaign has the potential to pull the rug of rationale out from under the entire strategy.

The integration of all IDF capabilities to face this challenge also requires a significant change in the structure of the ground forces,[7] their doctrine, and their competence. It will be necessary to reorganize the reserves model to ensure reserve units with similar competence as that of regular units as well as to reorganize the reserves’ mobilization to allow for immediate engagement in battle. Strategic mobility will also be required to allow the rapid projection of troops on deep operations via sea and by air. The decentralized pattern of warfare that characterizes battles in different theaters and the need to attain decisive results with few casualties requires a significant enhancement of units of the tactical level (from battalion to formation) as well as the provision of formation-like capabilities to the brigade level. To that end, it will be necessary to greatly improve ground forces’ firepower, shielding capabilities, weapons variety, logistical solutions, etc. All of these should lead to strength, flexibility, and better fighting capabilities in complex and urban areas which will require correspondingly significant improvements in the quality and quantity of basic and advanced training.

Regarding force build-up, the direct approach, which prefers an attack on Iran’s territory and assets and therefore gives greater importance to capabilities for third circle use, paradoxically plays into the hands of the Iranian regime. The doctrine this essay proposes goes in the opposite direction. It requires attacking the strongholds of Iran’s strategy within the first circle. This approach necessitates shifting the center of gravity of force build-up from the third to the first circle and enhancing the IDF’s ground forces competence and capabilities, as well as lending more of its presence in campaigns and operations. Beyond operational benefits, this approach has the potential to project the commitment of Israeli society to its existentially critical interests. This message must be repeated over and over again throughout the Middle East – from Bedouin tents in the Negev to the supreme leader’s residence in Tehran.

Nonetheless, it seems that the most important factor impacting the quality of performance on the ground is the quality of the chain of command. The quality of a ground maneuver is good as the quality of the chain of command of the ground troops in terms of ruses, quality and tempo of decision making, mental resilience and cohesion of the units, and, of course, tactical execution. The fact that ground forces have been absent from the battlefield for the last two decades has undoubtedly affected the commanders’ professionalism and their desire and willingness to advance through the ranks. It seems that serious reforms are necessary in this regard.


Israel has always focused on how to generate maximal force with limited resources. The current era poses an entirely different challenge to the security establishment: how to smartly operate excess strength. An existential threat justifies any cost to thwart it. When a threat is no longer existential, the question of cost becomes critical, and we must ask how to attain the goals of the war at the lowest possible price.

A nation in conflict cannot expect to advance its goals without payment in blood. It seems that, in recent decades, when it has seemed that our security has never been better, the addiction to peace and quiet and the illusion that security can be achieved for free, have become the Achilles heel of the defense establishment and one of the main threats to Israel. Given this, it is hardly surprising that the question of cost overshadows the issue of meeting the army’s primary goal – defending the citizens of the state – to the point of a dangerous inversion of values. But this is only one aspect of the situation. The other relates to a much larger framework in the overall account of national security. History teaches that the unwillingness to pay a price in the short term often leads to being forced to pay very dearly in the long term.

In the nation’s early days, Israel’s approach to security was aimed at attaining decisions against the existential threat posed by large regular armies. Since the 1970s, and especially over the last four decades, the existential conventional threat has lessened just as various forms of interim threats have risen from enemy nations and even more so from non-state organizations.

When the enemy’s strategy is to amass strength to a point where it can land a painful attack on Israel and thus undermine the foundations of its security, Israel needs a counterstrategy to prevent this from happening. Recent years have shown that, because of Israel’s desire to maintain peace and quiet, Iran has succeeded in advancing a strategy intended to pose an existential threat to the state of Israel. The Iranian regime’s motivation and the geopolitical changes emerging in the Middle East are liable to create the conditions – as well as the temptation – for the Iranian axis to aim their considerable force against Israel. Israel, which seems to have become addicted to the peace and quiet, might discover that it has been living in the calm before the storm.

This insight dictates adopting an updated, proactive strategy that does not measure the days of peace, the number of rockets, or the number of casualties, but is instead measured by a single yardstick: does it damage the force of the Iranian axis, does it set back its development from guerrilla to conventional force, and does it force the Iranian regime to rethink its choices?

After many years in which there has been no real threat to Israel’s national security, it would seem that storm clouds are gathering in the skies of the Middle East. This must force us to abandon old security paradigms and adopt a new approach capable of confronting the risks that today’s reality poses. There is no doubt that Israel still has the advantage of sheer power. But this advantage is being eroded by Israel “wasting” it on a pattern of campaigns whose contribution to national security is at best paltry and at worst disastrous.

This essay proposes that Israel adopt a new pattern of short, limited campaigns and operations, “strategic raids”, designed to exploit opportunities to damage the forces of the Shiite axis located on Israel’s borders and weaken them. Weakening them may undermine the Iranian regime entire strategy, which relies on these forces, both to deter Israel from attacking Iran’s strategic assets, including its nuclear program, and to pose a direct threat to Israeli population centers.

Iran possesses technological capabilities, considerable talent, and a historical consciousness spanning centuries. It also has ambitions it will abandon only if its back is to the wall.  While the Iranian people does not necessarily identify with the regime’s desires and that the regime could collapse under domestic pressure (such statements have often been made over the last two decades), Israel is in fact approaching a critical juncture. It cannot afford to rely on hopes that, if dashed, are liable to take an enormous toll. If there is one thing about Ben-Gurion’s defense strategy that has not changed even after seven decades of statehood, it is that today – as was the case back then – Israel does not have the privilege of losing a war as much as one single time.

The fact that Israel possesses greater amount of power is unquestioned, but it is not enough to persuade Iran to abandon its intentions. In the struggle between the Iranian regime’s ideology and the security and continued existence of Israel, resolve and willpower are of decisive importance. Thus, victory will depend – now just as in the past – on a s doctrine that expresses balance and synergy between the leadership’s determination, the people’s resilience and willpower, and the army’s might adapted to the new security challenges. The successful implementation of such a doctrine will depend more than anything else on adapting the IDF’s ability to conduct ground maneuvers.

[1] Approach which was presented by Zeev Jabotinsky back in 1923 which influence the Israel National defense strategy, formulated by David Ben Gurion at the 50’s.

[2] The expert was Prof. Martin van Creveld. The topic came up in conversation (in September 2021) about his September 1994 lecture to the General Staff forum about the future of war.

[3] The definition of threats by circles developed in the 1990s. Four circles of conflict were defined – an internal circle (home front protection, Palestinians, terrorism, guerrilla, and popular uprising); First circle – front; Second circle and deep -Iraq; Third circle – Iran (and Libya at the time).

[4] The population of the Gaza Strip is Sunni, but the ruling organizations also work with Iran and might even have the status of beholden proxies subject to Iranian directives.

[5] This approach is based on Mao’s three-stage theory on how irregular troops develop into a conventional force.

[6] Giora Segal, “The Threat to Ground Maneuver as a Deciding Element,” Strategic Assessment, Vol. 10, No. 4,

[7] This essay focused primarily on ground troops whose improvement represents the lion’s share of the potential for an effective application of the pattern of campaigns we propose herein.

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