JERUSALEM, Israel – Tomorrow, Israel celebrates its 75th anniversary, an achievement that likely would not have happened without a resilient military. From its small beginnings, Israel’s fighting force has developed into one of the world’s best.
When David Ben-Gurion announced the State of Israel on May 14th, 1948, six surrounding Arab nations attacked the newborn country within hours.
CBN News interviewed Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus about the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), from its beginning in 1948 to today.
“Then it was small units of very (patriotic) people, some of them Holocaust survivors, who just came off the boat from Europe and put on IDF uniforms and joined battle and defended Israel in 1948 against six Arab armies,” Conricus said.
He has a key perspective, serving in the IDF more than 24 years, with the last four as its chief international spokesman.
From that initial war that threatened its early existence, the tiny young nation faced war again in 1967 and in 1973, when Israel’s enemies sought to annihilate the country.
Outnumbered and outgunned, Conricus says Israel still gained the upper hand.
“I would say that our biggest advantage – and what has allowed Israel to be victorious on the battlefield and off the battlefield to defeat advancing Arab armies at a ratio of one to ten – what has been really at the heart of those achievements have been the excellent men and women serving in the IDF,” he said.
He added, “It was never about the stuff – never about the planes, the tanks, the weapons. It was about the human spirit, their commitment to the mission and their absolute understanding that when they look back, they see home.”
Conricus credits that to Israeli soldiers realizing they’re both the front and last line of defense.
“They know that their parents, their families, their communities rely on them and therefore they did amazing achievements on the battlefield, knowing that if they fail, the country is in danger.”
The veteran military analyst believes Israel likely faces the world’s greatest diversity of military threats.
“On the lower end, Israel today has to deal with low intensity threats like stone throwers, knife stabbers, and car ramming attacks … and on the higher end of the spectrum, we have to be able to deal with intercontinental ballistic missiles – perhaps in the very imminent future – with nuclear warheads flying in from Iran. We have to be able to deal with everything in between, all of that together, combined – sometimes simultaneously, sometimes on different fronts at the same time,” he explained.
As the chief spokesman for the IDF for years, Conricus knows that Israel remains on the front line of the media battle as well.
“What I found most challenging is, so many times I felt – and I can back this up with numbers and details – I felt that Israel is held to almost impossible standards. No other military in the world is under such scrutiny and under such relentless international interest and reporting, and so many times what gets wrong in international coverage is chronology of events, what happened first and what happened second and cause and effect,” he said.
He continued, “So many times, we see that getting mixed up in international reporting whereby the media or the headline will be that Israel attacked in Gaza killing five Palestinians. But no mention of the rockets that were fired at Israel before, at Israeli civilians that were intercepted by the Iron Dome or that caused casualties in Israel. But it’ll be about Israeli actions and so many times robbing viewers and media consumers of the real context of the story and the complexity of the situation and the threats that Israel faces.”
As Israel continues to face threats to its existence, Conricus hopes today’s IDF can capture the spirit of those early pioneers.
“To go back to our roots of 1948 and even before that, look at the spirit, the daring spirit of the IDF, and remind ourselves that that kind of spirit, that kind of ability to take calculated risks, to strike pre-emptively, not to wait for the enemy to take the initiative, but to take the battle to the enemy and to do daring, brave and creative things is, I think, what is needed on all fronts against all of our enemies.”
And what is the message for Israelis and Israel’s global adversaries? “The message should be that Israel is strong, focused, has the capabilities, and most importantly, the will to safeguard itself and defend itself.”
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