Commentary: Egypt and Israel have many reasons not to challenge one another on the battlefield. However, a confrontation might occur against the will of one of them or perhaps both of them. Therefore, the IDF must be prepared for a potential conflict
The security relations between Egypt and Israel are quite good, but this is not the case in terms of their economic, cultural and social ties because Egypt sticks to a cold peace. Furthermore, Egypt, despite its enormous economic hardships, pours money into building up its military. Egypt is not under a significant security threat from another country in the region. It has some friction with Turkey, such as over Libya, but this tension is unlikely to bring about an all-out war between them. They also don’t share a border, while Israel and Egypt do.
Under extremely severe circumstances, a conventional conflict might transpire between Israel and Egypt, even in a limited scope. Egypt is preparing its armed forces for the possibility of a war with Israel. For example, in May of this year, Egypt signed a contract to buy 30 advanced French Rafale fighters. It is meant to improve Egypt’s chances if it has to fight the powerful Israeli Air Force.
In a future conflict between Israel and Egypt, components from previous conflicts between the countries will bear significant weight. After all, the battles will once again take place in the Sinai. Even with all of the changes that have occurred in the past few decades in the Egyptian and Israeli militaries, part of the combat patterns from the 1948-1973 wars will remain relevant, while undergoing adaptation to the present reality. The goal of aerial superiority will remain a central component, and its achievement will make it possible to provide assistance to the various ground and naval forces, such as via bombings, transfer of supplies, and provision of intelligence. Bombings may be very efficient in an exposed expanse such as the Sinai, in which ground units will be vulnerable to attacks from the air, as was proven in 1967.
The Egyptian Air Force is rather strong, and possesses over 200 F-16 aircraft. The IDF may also find itself preoccupied with other fronts at the same time, including Iran and Hezbollah, and perhaps even campaigns against Hamas and Syria, which would disrupt its efforts to focus its aerial strength against Egypt.
In light of this, it is possible that neither side will benefit from total air superiority, at least during the first stage of the campaign between Israel and Egypt. Furthermore, the Egyptian antiaircraft capability may disrupt bombings of its forces. It should therefore be taken into consideration that it may not be possible to decide the campaign in Sinai through the sole use of fire from the air, requiring the use of fire from the ground. Thus, a ground campaign could develop with a mutual maneuver.
The variety of challenges faced by the IDF, should a conflict occur only with Egypt, necessitates manpower qualification. Despite the Israeli soldier’s capability to adapt to changing circumstances, it would not be enough, primarily in light of his focus on fighting guerilla warfare and terrorism in recent decades, rather than fighting a conventional military.
All in all, Egypt and Israel have many reasons not to challenge one another on the battlefield. However, a confrontation might occur against the will of one of the countries or perhaps both of them. Therefore, the IDF must be prepared for a potential conflict with Egypt. While preparing for the possibility of combat on other fronts, primarily against Hezbollah, the IDF's conventional combat capability should also be nurtured.