Another premise was that every Arab country was at least a potential
member of a unified pan-Arab coalition that could attack Israel--a
concept sometimes referred to by Israeli strategic planners as
the "extensive threat." To confront this extensive threat, the
IDF aimed to have the capability to defend Israel not only against
an attack by a single Arab adversary or an alliance of several
Arab states, but also against the combined forces of all Arab
countries. Israeli strategists felt that planning for such a worst-case
scenario was prudent because Arab states had often rhetorically
threatened such a combined attack. The concept of extensive threat
also justified requests for greater military aid from the United
States and protests against United States military support of
moderate Arab states that, from the American perspective, posed
no credible threat to Israel's security.
Some Israeli military leaders insisted that, despite the 1978
Camp David Accords, Egypt remained a major potential enemy in
any future Arab-Israeli war. Moreover, some Israeli strategists
worried about threats from outside the Arab world. In a 1981 speech,
then Minister of Defense Sharon stated that "Israel's sphere of
strategic and security interests must be broadened in the 1980s"
to confront new adversaries in Africa and Asia, and cited Pakistan
as one potential threat. Some strategists even envisioned Israeli
clashes with Iran and India.
At the other end of the spectrum were those who felt that the
concept of extensive threat exaggerated the danger to Israel.
Some Israeli strategists argued in the late 1980s that the Arab-Israeli
conflict was evolving into a bilateral contest between Israel
and Syria to which other Arab actors were becoming peripheral.
They considered that the IDF for pragmatic reasons should deploy
its limited resources to counter the threat of a cross-border
attack by Syria. Speaking in 1987, Minister of Defense Rabin stated
that Egypt had placed itself "outside the circle of nations at
war with Israel" and that the Treaty of Peace Between Egypt and
Israel had "significantly altered the Middle East balance of power
in Israel's favor."
Demographic and geographic pressures arising from Israel's small
size and concentrated population meant that a war fought within
Israel would be extremely costly in terms of civilian casualties
and damage to the economic infrastructure. Morale and, hence,
future immigration would also suffer. It was therefore an ironclad
rule of Israeli strategists to transfer military action to enemy
territory, and no regular Arab troops have hit on Israeli soil
since 1948. Because Israel could never defeat its Arab enemy permanently,
no matter how many victories or "rounds" it won on the battlefield,
and because in each full-scale war it incurred the risk, however
minimal, of combat being conducted on its territory or even a
defeat that would destroy the state, Israel's official policy
was to avoid all-out war unless attacked. Deterrence therefore
became the main pillar of Israel's national security doctrine.
Data as of December 1988