Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi denied knowledge on Tuesday of Israel’s alleged bombing of a nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007.

“I woke up this morning to radio and newspaper reports that the IDF bombed the Syrian reactor in 2007,” Ashkenazi said at the annual Calcalist conference in Tel Aviv. “I have no idea what they are talking about, but I do know that not everything must be spoken about.”

The New Yorker published details of the raid on Monday.

The article’s author, David Makovsky spoke to Army Radio about the strikes, saying that Israel kept the matter quiet because it did not want to “put Assad in a corner.”

“If he can deny the existence of the reactor, he doesn’t need to react,” explained Makovsky, former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.

Ashkenazi, now chairman of Shemen Oil, told the conference that the Arab Spring has not ended and that nobody is immune to its consequences.

What is certain, he said, is that the disappearance of Syria’s Assad regime – when it occurs – will cause Iran to lose its only Middle Eastern ally and force Hezbollah to act with more restraint. This will be the case even if a radical Islamic regime takes over Syria, Ashkenazi said.

In an attempt to demonstrate the Egyptian reality, Ashkenazi recalled a visit to Israel last year by former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. When the Israelis asked him how he could be so certain that Mubarak’s son would replace him as leader – in a conversation before Mubarak was deposed in February 2011 – Suleiman said: “In Egypt it does not matter who votes, it matters who counts the ballots.”

Addressing the issue of Iran, Ashkenazi said the public should view the defense budget as “an investment.” He recommended maintaining the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan and making every effort to reach a solution with the Palestinians, even if Israel has a problem with the partner on the other side.

“We must institutionalize the idea of two states – it is essential for the state, and after 64 years we are strong and secure enough to define our borders,” he said.

The other diplomatic and security priorities listed by Ashkenazi were protecting Israel’s special relationship with the US, restoring relations with Turkey and addressing the “insufferable reality” in which only a minority of people carry the burden of national service.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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