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Lessons learned, 20 years since leaving Lebanon

The Israel Defense Forces’ multi-year “Momentum” plan incorporates the importance of adapting to change, one of the key lessons learned in southern Lebanon.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi at a graduation ceremony of naval officers of the Israeli Navy at the Haifa Naval Base, on March 4, 2020. Photo by Flash90.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi at a graduation ceremony of naval officers of the Israeli Navy at the Haifa Naval Base, on March 4, 2020. Photo by Flash90.
Aviv Kochavi

The generation of commanders which I and other officers in the Israel Defense Forces’ general staff are a part of cut its teeth in the wadis and ambushes in the south Lebanon security belt. It was a period that molded us personally and professionally, a period that contrary to the image, saw more than a few operational successes, alongside failures and losses of subordinates and commanders alike.

One of the central lessons from that time is the ability to identify and interpret a given situation. To identify the enemy’s patterns of behavior and deliver a worthy military response.

Over the years, the enemy in Lebanon grew more sophisticated, and gradually adopted a guerilla-style of warfare. It took the IDF a few years to diagnose and acknowledge this. It also took time to recognize the magnitude of the missile and rocket threat and to give it the proper weight in terms of our operational and technological response.

On the operational level, this is a key lesson—the need to be self-critical and highly introspective, to help the army adapt and adopt new operational methods. The ability to see the changing reality and provide a relevant response must be a way of life.

The IDF modifies itself over time, and the army’s multi-year plan, Tnufa (“Momentum”), which incorporates the importance of adapting to change, set as a goal the need to greatly enhance the army’s offensive capabilities. The plan was formulated after a comprehensive and critical analysis of the state of our enemies on all fronts, defining most of them as “terrorist armies” heavily armed with missiles and rockets. The plan provides a response to these threats, incorporating compatible methods and weapons, streamlining cooperation between the various branches, training commanders and cultivating morale and values.

Advanced technology and modernization will facilitate substantial improvement of the IDF’s offensive capabilities. The IDF is already prepared, as of now, for any scenario, and on the day the order is given will activate the entirety of its might wherever the enemy has taken up position, with an emphasis on urban areas. We will continue to monitor the changes and threats, and continue to improve our weapons and capabilities.

At all times I carry with me the image of my friends who fell on Lebanese soil, and I embrace their families. I also remember and salute the fighters of the South Lebanese Army, who fought shoulder to shoulder alongside us. It is our duty as a nation to remember them and help them. To remember, to recognize change and adapt to it—this is the lesson from our service in the security belt. It is our professional, national and moral obligation.

Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi is Chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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