Former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz.
(photo credit: GUY WASSERMAN)
The security uncertainty that hovers over Israel will continue, and security challenges won’t vanish overnight, but Israel is strong, and should strive to achieve diplomatic progress with the Palestinians, former IDF chief of staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz said on Monday.
Speaking at a security conference organized by the Institute for National Security Studies at the Sapir Academic College in Sderot, Gantz said, “Will we forever live by our sword? We definitely will live with our sword. I don’t think our children or grandchildren won’t be soldiers. We must make efforts to try and not live only by our sword, but we will always be with a sword.”
“I don’t know if a diplomatic initiative [with the Palestinians] can lead anywhere, but I think it is very important. Either it will succeed, or future generations will know with absolute strategic honesty that there really was an attempt to do things differently,” Gantz added.
“Security challenges don’t let us off the hook from trying,” he added. Gantz stressed the importance of education, free healthcare and social services, and the rule of law and justice, in addition to security issues.
But first, he said, national unity was vital.
“We won’t be able to do this until we carry out a check of ourselves, an all-Israeli check, of who are we, and how do want to look like, before reaching strategic decisions. We need to strengthen components of unity, and not try to sweep away components of disunity, which is what makes us diverse,” Gantz said.
“National unity does not only have to occur when swords are swung at us.
Internal unity means that external security issues can be dealt with,” he stated.
Israelis currently lack a good example of a cultural and calm dialogue, Gantz said.
“I’m optimistic because we are a good and caring society. There will always be extremists, but the vast majority [of Israelis] know how to live together.”
Gantz, who led the military during the 2014 conflict with Hamas, defended Operation Protective Edge, saying it was the “right act in the right hour.”
“I think there was correct leadership by the prime minister, the defense minister, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), and the military command, despite lots of background noise,” Gantz said.
Gantz praised what he described as “responsibility and stability” displayed by Israel’s leaders during the conflict, adding that the IDF “did things that are very advanced operationally and technologically.”
“Of course there are things that have to be improved upon,” Gantz added. “We have to continue to strive to shorten operations. Even though this is a very significant challenge.”
Looking ahead, Gantz said, “I don’t really know what is going to happen here. In Gaza, as I understand the reality after Operation Protective Edge, Hamas is making a supreme effort to rebuild itself and its capabilities. It is deterred. And it is dealing with internal challenges.
“It is right for us to continue to deter Hamas,” the former chief of staff said.
Nevertheless, conflicts will continue to break out, until the enemy realizes that there is no point in using force, Gantz said.
He described the ongoing series of Palestinian knife terrorist attacks as “mushrooms of hate after the rain. We have to know how to stop them,” Gantz said, praising the Israel Police, the Shin Bet, and the IDF for their responses.
“We must, as a society, ensure that we do not give up, that we respond with maximum force to an incident that is dangerous and minimum force when this passes. It is easy, but not right, to release ourselves from this discussion,” Gantz said.