Gabi Ashkenazi addresses Counter-terrorism conference

Relations with Turkey need to be restored, Assad's downfall could help Israel, Palestinians don't want violence, ex-chief of General Staff says.

September 12, 2011 20:41
2 minute read.
IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi

Ashkenazi 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi spoke at the 11th annual conference of the Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya Monday night.

His speech touched on the deterioration of relations with Turkey, the Arab Spring, the Iranian nuclear issue, and the Palestinian statehood bid.

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"We need to prevent further deterioration of relations with Turkey," Ashkenazi said. He stressed, "It will be very difficult, but we need to do it."

The former military chief opined that changes in Syria could prove to be better for Israel. "The new Syrian regime will not be like Assad," said Ashkenazi, "as it will not cooperate with Iran and Hezbollah."

Speaking on the Iranian issue, Ashkenazi said that while at first the Iranian regime was pleased with the revolutions in the Arab world, they now feel threatened. He noted the turmoil in Syria as being particularly worrisome because if Assad falls, Iran would lose its only state ally in the region.

The Iranian economy is in serious trouble, he said, because to the chagrin and surprise of the ruling regime, the US succeeded in gaining the support of China and Russia. Ashkenazi emphasized however that while sanctions are working, more could and should be done. Additionally, he stressed the fact that Israel needs to make Iran understand that besides sanctions, it will do whatever it needs to to protect itself, referring to a possible military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

The Lieutenant General (res.) explained that a lot of uncertainty lay ahead in the wake of what he calls the "Arab awakening."

"Anyone who knows the history of revolutions knows that they are often hijacked by more radical groups," he said, continuing, "Egypt is trying to prevent that from happening. I do not think Egypt will be a threat in the near future, but we need to be careful. Israel has close connections to the Egyptian military, and right now they are worried about the economy. As they put it, 'We need 90 million pita breads every morning.'"

Ashkenazi also addressed the Palestinian statehood bid, saying that he does not believe that Israel can prevent them from going to the United Nations.  Rather, he said, the question will be what Israel will do afterward.

"I do not think the Palestinians want a violent uprising because they remember the cost," he said, adding that the although the Palestinian economy is growing and the Palestinian situation is improving, the situation could slip out of control.

In that case he said, Israel needs to rely on its cooperative relationship with the Palestinian security forces, which he lauded as a significant achievement.

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