The Strategic Setting in the Middle East
From the outset, the Nineties have seen sweeping changes in
global alliances. The war in the Persian Gulf attested to the
volatile nature of the Middle East, a region marked by vast
disparities in ideologies and in the distribution of resources.
These differences are a destabilizing force both within the Arab
world and within the context of Arab-Israeli relations. A basic asymmetry
characterizes Israel's position vis-a-vis its Arab neighbors and
directly affects the role the IAF must play:
Israel is tiny (smaller than New
Jersey) when compared to Arab states. More pointedly, it
lacks strategic depth. A hostile fighter could fly across
all of Israel (40 nautical miles wide from the Jordan
River to the Mediterranean Sea) within four minutes,
while traveling at only subsonic speed. A
single fighter formation can carry more ordnance than the
combined warheads of the 39 Scud missiles which were
ruthlessly fired at Israeli population centers during the
Economically Arab petrodollars have been
translated into vast arsenals of modern military
hardware. The potential threat includes state-of-the- art
Soviet equipment, such as the Mig 29 and Su-24 fighters,
as well as the best of the west from American
and European sources.
Population Israel is unable to field a large
standing force compared with those it faces and must rely
on its reserves and on the IAF's high state of readiness,
24 hours a day. Israel's small population also increases
its sensitivity to civilian and military losses.
These points emphasize Israel's need for peace, which has
always been the cornerstone of Israel's defense strategy. To
maintain the peace, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) must keep Israel's skies clear while
presenting an ever-ready deterrent to potential enemies. In case
deterrence fails, it would be the IAF's job to help win a quick
and decisive victory, as it did in 1967.
Source: Israel Defense Forces.