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Always Ready for War, IDF’s Low Morale Could be Deal Breaker in Event of Confrontation

While the COVID-19 pandemic has been keeping Hamas militants busy, a report released by a leading Israeli institute projects a war by the end of the year, and a former IDF general says the Jewish state has no other option but to always be ready.

After more than a month of relative calm, a rocket emanating from Gaza hit an open space in southern Israel in the early hours of Wednesday night. No damage was caused, but the IDF retaliated, attacking Hamas targets in the north of the Gaza Strip.

Since the first COVID-19 cases in Gaza appeared in March, the Islamic group has been busy handling the crisis and has even started cooperating with Israel to contain the spread of a virus that has so far infected more than 300 people.

The group’s intention to battle Israel has never waivered, however. Nor has the willingness of other militant organisations to take on Tel Aviv. In fact, in January, Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies submitted a yearly report to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, projecting an eruption of a war in 2020, while a public opinion poll released that same month indicated that the country was ready for it.

How Ready Is Israel?

According to a survey conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, 67 percent of Israeli Jews believed the country was ready for a war militarily. Only 38 percent of Arab Israelis held similar views.

At the same time, the poll also revealed that more than 40 percent of respondents didn’t show trust in the IDF’s top management, their decision making abilities, or the set of priorities they put in front of them. 

Little faith was also shown regarding those in command of the home front, with 30 percent of respondents saying southern and northern Israel were not ready for another confrontation.

Yossi Peled, a former IDF general, puts these findings down to the political stalemate that has dogged the country since last April.

“We haven’t had a government for a year and a half now and that of course affected the country’s budget and the readiness of the IDF. But I don’t believe that our generals are not sensitive or not aware. History has taught us that we could pay a very high price for not being ready”.

Israel’s swift victory in the 1967 Six-Day War in which the Jewish state captured Jerusalem and established control over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip made Tel Aviv so confident in its abilities that it was certain no Arab nation would dare to challenge it militarily.

That’s why when the Egyptian and Syrian armies attacked in 1973, the assault caught Tel Aviv by surprise. Ever since the consensus has been that Israel should always be prepared to avoid such situations. 

Strong Military, Low Morale

Over the years Israel has built one of the strongest militaries in the region, despite the nation’s small size.

According to Global Firepower, which uses 55 factors to determine a country’s military strength, Israel occupies 18th place, behind the standard military superpowers like the US, Russia, China, and India as well as some regional militaries including those of Egypt and Turkey.

Boasting some 170,000 members across all branches of its armed forces as well as more than 440,000 reservists, Israel engages more than 7 percent of its entire population in various military roles, something that is much higher than other nations, including bitter rival Iran where only one percent of the population is involved with the military.

Apart from accumulating an impressive arsenal of arms and technologies, the country is also believed to have nuclear weapons, allegations that Tel Aviv neither confirms nor denies.

But the question is whether these weapons are enough to win a war.

In February, one Israeli news website, Globes, quoted the deputy of the country’s former chief of staff Gadi Eizenkott as saying that the Jewish state was not ready for another war because it lacked the necessary spirit to win one.

“The IDF hasn’t wanted to win for years now. And that’s exactly the problem”, said Yair Golan who has since resigned from his military post and entered the political ring.

The low morale that began eroding the IDF after the Second Lebanon War in 2006 was also addressed in 2017 by Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak Brick, who served as the military ombudsman from 2008 to 2019. He released an annual report that year revealing the factors contributing to this phenomenon. 

These included the disappointment of many with the IDF’s decision to cut thousands of positions, forcing soldiers to do less with more, dissolve some units and cut salaries of high profile commanders prompting many to resign from their posts and leaving the military in the hands of less capable or inexperienced personnel.

The direct result of this low morale was a drop in the number of military recruits. In 2019, for example, 31 percent of young Israeli men did not enlist in the IDF, the previous low, 23 percent, was registered in 2005. A similar tendency was registered among the country’s young women, with 44 percent of them staying away from service.

Although the data is alarming, Peled believes that Israel, due to the complexity of the region it’s located in, “has no other option but to be ready”.

“In the north, we are trying to block the attempts by the Iranians to cement their presence in the region, while in the south we are handling the threat of Hamas. Maybe the coronavirus crisis will lessen the tensions and create an opportunity for Israelis and Palestinians to work together but either way, Israel doesn’t have the privilege not to be ready”.

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Chris Christie Pushes for Reopening, Says Americans Have to Accept More Coronavirus Deaths

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on Monday that the American economy needs to reopen quickly and that tens of thousands of more Americans may die from the novel coronavirus, insisting that Americans are “gonna have to” accept that.

Speaking to CNN correspondent Dana Bash on her The Daily DC podcast, Christie—who now works as an ABC News contributor—pushed for the reversal of stay-at-home orders in order to open up businesses and ramp up economic activity.

Confronted with recent models that now show that as many as 135,000 Americans will die due to decreased social distancing amid the pandemic, Christie essentially threw up his hands and said there really wasn’t a choice.

“Of course, everybody wants to save every life they can—but the question is, towards what end, ultimately?” Christie said. “Are there ways that we can thread the middle here to allow that there are going to be deaths, and there are going to be deaths no matter what?”

Echoing previous comments he’s made that the country cannot wait to reopen the economy, the former Trump transition team member asserted that “we’re going to destroy the American way of life” if people don’t immediately get back to work.

Bash then asked the ex-governor if the public could accept reopening following reports that a White House model is now projecting a daily death toll of 3,000 by June 1. 

“They’re gonna have to,” Christie bluntly replied. “We’re in the midst of a pandemic that we haven’t seen in over 100 years. And we’re going to have to continue to do things.”

Asked how he would tell the American public about the need to reopen if he were the president, Christie responded: “The message is that the American people have gone through significant death before.”

“We sent our young men during World War II over to Europe, out to the Pacific, knowing, knowing that many of them would not come home alive,” he said. “And we decided to make that sacrifice because what we were standing up for was the American way of life. In the very same way now, we have to stand up for the American way of life.”

About half the states have begun to reopen public spaces and their economies in recent days despite cases growing in many areas and the confirmed U.S. death count from coronavirus approaching 70,000. President Donald Trump, who has called for states to “LIBERATE,” casually conceded during a Sunday Fox News town hall that the final death toll could reach 100,000 after claiming just a few weeks ago that it would be half that number.

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