In the early 1960’s, the Israeli defense establishment was divided over the nature of the challenges the IDF would have to meet. One approach advocated that Israel prepare for the battlefield of the 1970’s. This required the development of a sophisticated defense industry and the creation of a deterrent force, which would include defensive measures to cope with the threat of chemical warfare.
The alternative approach argued that the IDF had to ready itself for warfare much earlier, in the 1960’s, not the 1970’s. This implied a considerable expansion of the Armored Corps and the acquisition of fighter-bombers for the Air Force. Advocates of long-term planning saw France as Israel’s primary future arms supplier, while those who thought war might occur earlier wanted to turn to other suppliers as well, including the United States. In 1964 this latter approach became dominant. The U.S. government, convinced that the balance of power in the Middle East was being altered by continuing Soviet arms sales to Arab states, agreed to sell Israel offensive weapons, including planes, tanks and mobile artillery.
Between 1964 and 1967, the IDF’s land forces were developed along two distinct lines. An offensive force was built around the Armored and Mechanized Corps, the paratroopers, elite infantry units and artillery. At the same time, a defensive force was built from remaining infantry and artillery units. Not surprisingly, the offensive units received the largest share of the IDF’s resources. The number of tanks quadrupled, reaching 1,100; paratrooper units increased threefold. Training and maneuvers were also increased significantly. During these years, Israel developed its ability to renovate old equipment, particularly the Armored Corps’s Sherman and Centurion tanks. Concurrently, new weapons were developed, including, from 1958, a variety of missiles.