Monday, May 31, 2010

Israel biting off more than it can shew?

From a dairy entry on Daily Kos:

While the Israeli Defense forces clearly outclass their immediate neighbors in miltary strength by an order of magnitude or more, their ability to cope with Turkey in an armed confrontation is far less certain.

Since Israel's war for independence its armed forces have been hardened in the crucible of combat and achieved such dominance over its immediate neighbors that none of them have been willing to challenge the IDF in conventional combat for a generation. Instead Israel's opponents have engaged in a protracted struggle using unconventional means including terrorism. This long war may have dulled the Israelis competence in conventional warfare and it definitely seems to have blinded them to the potential consequences of taking on a major military power like Turkey.

Israel's first line of defense is its air force, which reportedly has around 368 first-line combat aircraft, mostly F-16s and F-15s. Turkey, however, has a similar force of more than 400 combat aircraft, including more than 200 F-16s of its own. Northern Israel is well within the combat radius of the F-16s and with a fleet of 7 tanker aircraft the Turks could easily reach all of Israel if they wanted. The Turks also have four airborne early warning and control aircraft, implying a level of sophistication in air warfare Israel has never had to face before.

At sea the balance of power is much more one-sided. Isreal's navy, while professional and experienced, is tiny. It has just three submarines and three corvettes as well as some missile boats. The Turkish navy has 19 frigates , all of which are larger than any ship in Israel's Navy as well as some corvettes and missile boats of its own. The Turks also have 14 submarines.

Any skirmish between the two countries would likely only involve naval and air forces, but it's worth noting that Turkey's army is far larger than anything Isreal could field and is professional and capable.

All this leaves aside the possible NATO consequences of Israel's act. It's unlikely Turkey would ask for direct aid from its NATO allies in this case, but it could clearly expect that no NATO country, including the USA, would provide any help to Israel.

Lastly, Israel cannot threaten to use its nuclear weapons against Turkey because of the NATO nuclear umbrella, so this confrontation will turn on conventional capabilities alone.

It would be wise for the Israeli government to consider the risks of its current confrontation with Turkey and whether or not it might be prudent to beat a hasty retreat making any and all apologies required.

Turkey seems to be hugely PO'd over this and unlike the Arab countries it has the military wherewithall to make its displeasure known.


  1. I think your post is absurd. Turkey will not go to war with Israel over this incident. The boarding was necessary as the ships refused to comply with requests to enter an Israeli port for inspection to prevent contraband reaching an enemy committed to Israel's destruction.

    The major error(s) made were tactical in that this should have been a simple and quick operation. Intelligence gaps (intolerable in Israel's position) led to a situation that was immediately out of control.

    I suppose, Israel could have just let the ships through, opening the door to complete rearming of Hamas by their radical fundamentalist allies. Don't forget that Gaza was under blockade not only by Israel, but by Egypt as well. Despite that blockade, necessary supplies had been getting through via both countries.

    I read somewhere that the definition of a "moderate" Arab is one who is temporarily out of ammunition.

  2. I'll agree that Turkey and Israel are not LIKELY to go to war, but that will depend on both decisions by both sides.

    What I question is whether the Israelis considered all the implications of this action, including what Turkey's capabilities are.

    As far as the necessity of the act goes, I think that's open to question. Israel had many ways it could have chosen to deal with the issue. One of those included, yes, letting the boats through and NOT rising to the bait.

    Neither side acts in good faith. Israel has imposed draconian restrictions on Gaza that are probably a blunder in themselves, and obviously Hamas is a terrorist organization. So I'm not going to get dragged into the cesspool of debating the overall Middle East issue and the justice or injustice of one side or the other.
    It's way beyond the scope of this blog.

    On the more narrow military questions surrounding the incident I think there's good reason to doubt the efficacy of Israel's approach.

    As far as the last statement goes, that was gratuitous Arab bashing and nearly caused me to reject the entire comment. Please refrain from this sort of comments in the future.

  3. Hundreds of muslims are killed by other muslims everyday throughout the
    world (Irag, Afghanistan,Darfur,Sudan) and no outrage is expressed.
    Israeli soldiers kill 9 so called peace activists in self defense when attacked by same and the world is boiling over.
    It is just another example of overt worldwide anti Israeli bias.
    One of the so called activists was quoted as saying, prior to the "peace" mission. There are 2 possible good outcomes. Either we make it to Gaza or we don't. A win / win for them. A lose/lose for Israel.