IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said the IDF is “committed to
make every effort to bring [captive] soldier Gilad Schalit home,” while speaking
to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee for the first time on
“I met with the Schalit family one week after I started my job
and promised them I would do whatever is necessary,” he explained.
Egypt: No one will block opening of Rafah
Israel fears terrorists will exploit reopened
also added that “any public debate on the way to bring back Gilad Schalit is
wrong and needs to stay closed.”
Last week, former IDF chief of staff
Gabi Ashkenazi said that the IDF is incapable of securing Schalit’s release,
during a speech at Bar-Ilan University.
Gantz warned of the “expanding
arc of threats in the Middle East,” saying they range from “the knife of an
individual terrorist to Iranian nuclear weapons.”
Due to this “expanding
arc,” Gantz told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the IDF needs a
“new, expanded defense budget.”
“Past threats are still relevant, but new
threats are developing, which require us to be able to act on numerous fronts
strongly and decisively in our enemies’ short time frame,” Gantz
However, Gantz said that neither Syria nor Egypt is an
immediate threat to Israel.
“We have peace with Egypt; our interest is to
strengthen them,” the chief of staff explained. “However, it is important to
mention that Egypt is not stable as it was in the past, and our level of
security needs to be higher than it was.”
Gantz added that the fence
being built along the southern border will “serve as a solution to the
infiltration problem and prevent arms smuggling.” He said the fence is expected
to be finished at the end of next year.
Gantz also said that Syrian
President Bashar Assad “doesn’t know today what Syria will look like next week.
This uncertainty bothers him as much as it bothers us.”
added, “the likelihood that Assad will open fire on Israel in order to lower the
pressure on him is small.”
“Iran is a central threat, not only because of
its nuclear capabilities, but because of its support to radical groups, which it
supplies with weapons,” he said.
The chief of staff said “there is a new
central player in the Middle East – the street.”
“The IDF is prepared for
these demonstrations in Judea, Samaria and Gaza and on our borders.” He added
that the IDF has trained its soldiers and prepared equipment for such an
Gantz explained that if the IDF had the proper equipment
during the Nakba Day demonstrations, “the event would not have developed in the
same way,” adding that the IDF “was not negligent, but mistakes were
Soldiers were posted near Kuneitra in the Golan Heights, Gantz
said, but when the IDF saw demonstrators crossing into Majdal Shams, “we
transferred reinforcements within 19 minutes.”
“The IDF learned the
lessons of Nakba Day,” Gantz said. “I expect that in the future we will see
similar Border Intifadas,” he said, referring to Syrians crossing into
Gantz also mentioned haredi soldiers, saying that “whoever can
enlist should come to the IDF, so the IDF will have the possibility of choosing
who it wants. The IDF should have to limit the number of haredim enlisting in
At the meeting’s opening, Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee head MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) congratulated Gantz on his new job as
chief of staff, which he began three months ago.
“Even if the prime
minister and defense minister made mistakes in how they chose you, they made a
good choice,” Mofaz, a former IDF chief of staff, said.
Ben-Eliezer (Labor) said he is glad to see a young chief of staff that will
bring “a young way of thinking” to the IDF.
“This year is going to be
very interesting. I don’t envy you,” Ben-Eliezer added.
Gantz thanked the
committee, saying that in his new job “the burden of responsibility is greater
than the fame and respect.” He added that the IDF is prepared for future
challenges, and he intends to keep it that way.
Gantz also mentioned the
appointment of the IDF’s first female major-general, Orna Barbivai.
happy to be the person whose turn it was in history to promote her,” he said,
adding that Barbivai had served in all the jobs necessary for success in her new