Benny Gantz: Israeli counterterrorism ops ongoing despite ceasefire - interview

"Significant achievements in weakening Islamic Jihad" were achieved, and "Israel's deterrence in the Gaza Strip was regained" the defense minister said.

 Benny Gantz speaks during a press conference at the IDF Southern Command, in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, on August 5, 2022 (photo credit: FLASH90)
Benny Gantz speaks during a press conference at the IDF Southern Command, in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, on August 5, 2022
(photo credit: FLASH90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz gave a detailed interview Tuesday to Walla News in the aftermath of Operation Breaking Dawn, covering the topic of future IDF operations and activities on all fronts, including increasing tensions in the West Bank; maritime border disputes with Lebanon and Hezbollah; and Iran. The interview came following the ceasefire agreement with Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza and the end of what Gantz called an extremely satisfactory operation.

How do you feel following Operation Breaking Dawn? 

I feel good and satisfied and I would like to start by taking the opportunity to thank all Israeli citizens and particularly residents of Israel's South, for the unity shown behind the state, the IDF, Israel Police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).

I am extremely satisfied with the operation's results. I am not being complacent or arrogant. We met this operation with a comfortable strategic setting in Gaza, functioning relations with neighboring states, thought-out operations and a good intelligence infrastructure.

We have made significant achievements in terms of weakening the Islamic Jihad because Israel's deterrence in the Gaza Strip has been regained and our freedom of action has been retained. When an opportunity brings about a necessity to use our force, we use it precisely.

When an opportunity meets a necessity to use our force, we use it precisely

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Operation Breaking Dawn

 A fireball and smoke erupt following an Israeli air strike on a building in Gaza City, on August 6, 2022. (credit: ATTIA MUHAMMED/FLASH90) A fireball and smoke erupt following an Israeli air strike on a building in Gaza City, on August 6, 2022. (credit: ATTIA MUHAMMED/FLASH90)

What was the most outstanding achievement?

The direct hits on the PIJ's military infrastructure and its chain of command. Our ability to carry out targeted operations in such a precise and effective manner with very limited civilian casualties. Unfortunately, the operation was not clean of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip, some because of failed launches from inside the Strip.

Does Israel still maintain the freedom to maneuver in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank despite the Egypt-brokered ceasefire?

First of all, I hope the ceasefire lasts.

We are interested in quietly maintaining our security in the region. However, if the situation changes, we will hold a situational assessment and see what can be done. Don't forget we were active near Nablus just last night and this morning.

Our activities to weaken terrorist organizations and strengthen the Palestinian Authority, as much as we can, are ongoing.

Lebanon 'creating an incident it does not need' in Karish gas field

Will Israel use gas in the Karish field amid the threat of a terrorist attack from Hezbollah?

Let me be very clear: The Karish gas field is located within Israel's maritime borders.

Israel will use its energy resources as it sees fit. We find ourselves in US-mediated negotiations with the Lebanese government. We are firm in our commitment to reach a conclusion that will allow Lebanon to also use its resources.

Lebanon should not be creating an incident it does not need. We are not looking to start wars, but if we must, we will.

We are not looking to start wars, but if we must, we will

Gantz on maritime border dispute with Lebanon

  Karish gas field, located in Israel territory and disputed by Lebanon.  (credit: ENERGEAN) Karish gas field, located in Israel territory and disputed by Lebanon. (credit: ENERGEAN)

"Following Russian-Iranian relations closely"

Can you foresee a situation in which Russia allows Syrian and Iranian forces to launch missiles toward Israeli jets?

Currently, there is no change (on the Syrian front). Of course, I am closely following the warming Russian-Iranian relations, mainly due to international reactions to the fighting in Ukraine

Any operation we carry out on this front is necessary and is carried out on the assessment that the situation allows us to act.

What is Israel doing behind the scenes amid nuclear talks between Iran and world powers?

We are following the nuclear negotiations closely. Whether they are coming to fruition or not is debatable.

As I understand it, Europe submitted a proposal it called its "final" one to the Iranians. We are trying to influence proceedings to ensure that, if an agreement is reached, it will have as few loopholes as possible.

In any case, we have our own capabilities which we continue to develop and consolidate. We have many projects that have been ongoing for years.