'Despite our yearning for peace... the time has not yet come to sheath our sword'

The following is a letter sent to the soldiers and employees of the IDF by the incoming Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi.

Commanders of the IDF, soldiers- in compulsory, career and reserve service - and employees of the IDF, It is with a sense of duty and responsibility, accompanied by a complete belief in the righteousness of our path as a people and as a state, and by my belief in all of you, that I assume the position of Chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces. Unfortunately, despite our yearning for peace as we reach out to our neighbors, the time has not yet come to sheath our sword. It must remain sharpened and honed, prepared to face any enemy. The State of Israel needs a professional, strong, deterrent, state-of-the-art army. An army of the people, made up of our finest young men and women - those who are willing to invest themselves in the mission of defending our country. We will be prepared for the challenges posed to us by the terror organizations and by others who have not yet come to terms with the existence of the State of Israel in the Middle East. We will fight those who wish to harm us, we will become stronger in order to deter them, and if need be - we will be prepared to overcome them. We are committed to the implementation of the lessons learned from the conflict in Lebanon. We will improve our readiness. We will act in unison, driven by the values of duty, professionalism, responsibility, credibility, discipline and the sanctity of human life. The nation's trust is one of our most important assets. It guarantees the continued existence and success of the IDF. We will continue to perform our mission while utilizing the resources allocated to us by the State of Israel to the fullest extent. We will do our utmost in order to prove that we deserve that trust. As we strive to maintain the safety and security of our country, we will keep in our hearts the memory of our brothers and comrades in arms who fell defending it, and shall remain true to their legacy. We will continue to embrace their bereaved families, day in day out, and to hold out a warm loving hand to our injured and handicapped fellow soldiers. Together we will do everything in our power to bring our missing and captive soldiers home. To the soldiers and commanders of the IDF Reserve Forces - I wish to express my appreciation to you. During the fighting in Lebanon, you were called upon to join the effort to defend our home. Your courage, valor and determination have been an example to us all. We value your contribution, your professionalism and your dedication. We will need you for many years to come. Today, the Israel Defense Forces bids farewell to Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz, the outgoing chief of the General Staff. We salute Lt.-Gen. Halutz with gratitude and appreciation. He has devoted all of his adult years to the security of our country - since his days as a fighter pilot, throughout his service in various command positions in the Air and Space Corps and in the General Staff, up to his position as chief of the General Staff. On behalf of myself and the IDF, I would like to thank him and wish him luck. IDF commanders and soldiers, Serving in the Israel Defense Forces is both a privilege and a duty. We are obligated to protect the only safe home of the Jewish people, who look to us, trust us and believe in us. The strength of the IDF comes from the people who serve in it - from all of you. I know you and trust you. Together, we will work to reinforce the strength of our country until the prayer "establish peace in the land and everlasting joy for its inhabitants" is fulfilled.