'Syria and Hizbullah gaining strength'

Barak: "Necessary preparations have been made - I prefer not to talk, rather to take action."

Barak-Ashkenazi 224-88 (photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI)
Barak-Ashkenazi 224-88
(photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Tuesday that "it is not a coincidence that the IDF is holding intensive drills in the Golan Heights," adding that UNSC Resolution 1701 was not accomplishing what it set out to do. "Hizbullah has gained significant strength in the last couple of years," said Barak during an IDF Armored Corps drill in the North. "We are closely following a possible violation [of the resolution] caused by the transfer of advanced weapons systems from Syria to Hizbullah. The necessary preparations have been made, and regarding all the rest - I always prefer not to talk, rather to take action when the time comes." Barak expressed optimism with regards to the IDF's capabilities. "The army is regaining its strength, and coming back to the right morals, carrying out the right exercises and it is our obligation as the government to ensure that the proper means are available to carry out such drills in a correct and intensive manner." Referring to a proposed budget cut to the Defense Ministry, Barak said: "We live in a country where security and defense consist not just of tanks and planes, but also of fostering excellence and caring for the population through education and social welfare." Nonetheless, Barak emphasized that "security and defense take precedence over quality of life and in a country such as ours, we do not have the luxury of cutting the defense budget." The defense minister also addressed the Gaza ceasefire and the strengthening of the group. "So far, the ceasefire has proved promising," he said. "There have been ten instances where rockets were launched in the past 6 weeks, compared to the hundreds of attacks that occurred in the past. Every week that passes with the ceasefire in place enables us to gain strength and to maximize the possibility or the probability of bringing about the right conditions for the release of [captured IDF soldier] Gilad Schalit. Barak added that "in the meantime, the government must care for the social and economic infrastructure as well as the preparation of the home front in the Gaza periphery and the surrounding areas. Concerning the Georgia-Russia conflict, Barak warned against leaving friends during testing times. "We view Russia as a very important country both on a regional and global scale," he said. "[At the same time,] we see Georgia as a country with which we have friendly relations, and Israel, particularly due to its experience, must ensure that it does not rush to leave its friends at a testing time." "This is what we have expected from our friends and it is what our friends expect from us," he continued. Barak's remarks came amid Russian protests over Israeli weapons sales to Georgia. The defense minister was accompanied on the drill by IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, OC Ground Forces Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi and other senior IDF officers. "I am pleased with what I see and think that we are heading in the right direction," said Ashkenazi, adding that "the training and the drills serve to restore the army's readiness to act when necessary. Furthermore, we are talking about a process. There is still work to be done, there are no shortcuts, it is very hard work. I think that people understand this, I think that officers understand this. We are all working hard and use every day to strengthen our capabilities and readiness to execute our tasks."