'Better Israeli than Lebanese if new conflict erupts'
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz says Israel facing multi-arena instability, IDF ready to meet new challenges.
Benny Gantz at military forum, January 7, 2013 Photo: IDF Spokesperson
The cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah is holding steady seven years after
the Second Lebanon War, but should hostilities resume it would be better to be
an Israeli citizen than a Lebanese citizen, IDF Chief of Staff
Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz told the Herzliya Conference on Monday
During a speech that opened the annual gathering, Gantz said
Israeli deterrence against Hezbollah remained “authentic.”
He noted that
Hezbollah was involved “up to its neck” in the Syrian civil war, sending
thousands of fighters to support the Assad regime, and warned that the North
“could explode at any moment.”
“I hope this quiet is
maintained... but if not we are prepared and we will know to act with the
directly against Hezbollah and its state surroundings,”
Gantz said. “Lebanon [as] the neighboring state can’t be sovereign but not
responsible. If this goes off, I’d rather be an Israeli civilian, and not a
Turning to Syria, Gantz said the arena had become
“very unstable and dangerous.”
Although the IDF no longer faces six army
divisions threatening to invade the Golan Heights, terror organizations are
growing in Syria.
“They’re fighting Assad. But guess what. It’s us
afterward. We could be the next challenge for the same organizations,” he
The chief of staff said that should radical rebel elements get
hold of strategic weapons in Syria, there was a reasonable chance that they
would use them.
“The Golan is not the same Golan it used to be,” he
Addressing the issue of Iran, Gantz said we can “assume that this
preoccupies me on a daily and weekly basis.” He did not elaborate.
IDF is having to adapt to a reality of multi-arena threats, he continued, adding
that the chances of a deterioration were “very high.”
“An incident can
turn into a bigger event, which can cross arenas,” he said. “Threats haven’t
disappeared. They’ve changed form.”
To deal with the changing nature of
the region, the IDF has developed a strategy that places offense and ground
maneuvers at its heart, Gantz told the audience. The military’s aim, he said, is
to ensure that “tomorrow, we can win the war. Not to start it, but win it. If we
won’t be ready, we won’t forgive ourselves.”
The strategy is based on
flexibility among ground forces, enabling them to quickly deploy from a northern
to southern front, or vice versa.
“The air force is outstanding at this
type of flexibility,” he said. “We can attack targets in one day that previously
took whole wars to strike.”
Accurate yet devastating fire power, enhanced
intelligence capabilities, and the development of ground offensive capabilities
are key areas, the chief of staff said. Creating long-term solutions to security
problems, he stressed, can only be achieved by ground offensives.
have to go to the tunnels of Gaza and the thickets of Lebanon, because that’s
where the enemy is,” he said. “We can’t do this only through ‘video games.’ It
will require our physical presence on the ground. We’ll have to enter
Urban conflict will be a key feature of future battles, Gantz
predicted. The IDF will strive to bring any future conflict to an end as quickly
In Gaza, he added, there is a large gap between Hamas’s
fiery rhetoric and the four-month truce that has been violated on only one
occasion. He expressed hope that the quiet would last.
“If not,” he told
the audience, “we’re prepared to act as is necessary in the unique Gaza combat
Gantz also said that recent West Bank violence was being
contained, adding that the coming visit of US President Barack Obama was acting
as a catalyst for the unrest. He added that it would be wrong to ignore the
effect on the West Bank of last November’s conflict with Hamas.
night IDF soldiers, the Border Police... make arrests, confront [rioters] to
ensure that this quiet continues,” he said.
Jordan was “stable but
sensitive,” while Egypt “has an interest in promoting security in the Sinai
Peninsula.” The IDF, he added, has a positive relationship with the Egyptian