Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz discusses military challenges and the Iranian nuclear threat, stressing the necessity of military strength
Date: 01/02/2012, 10:12 PM Author: Jonatan Urich and Rotem Eliav
Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz spoke at the annual Herzliya Conference on Wednesday (February 1) discussing growing security threats.
After recounting previous IDF (Zahal) wars, Lt. Gen. Gantz stated that “Our enemies learned that military capability alone will not defeat Israel. Alongside terror, more military threats and systems are developing that can be used within Israeli territory. Not as an attempt to defeat Israel, but rather to strategically tire it, battle after battle, into the Israeli home front.”
He explained that “The threats against Israel have not disappeared. What was relevant in the past remains relevant. From the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) to Damascus, eight Syrian military divisions are stationed. These forces are currently inactive however that may change tomorrow morning. In addition to previous threats, additional ones are constantly proliferating.”
“Incomparable military force covers every region of Israel. Every region in Israel is currently under threat,” assured Lt. Gen. Gantz. “Our enemies are trying to create a military system that skips Israel’s defense capabilities and directly targets the strategic depth of the State of Israel.” He warned that both Gaza and Lebanon are “the largest ammunition and weapon storage facilities I know,” owned by Hezbollah, the Islamic Jihad, and other terror organizations.
He explained that these organizations are “supported by Syria, Iran and even Russia who continues sending ammunition to Syria. The Middle East is currently arming more than any other region in the world, and we are the target of these weapons.”
“Our enemies acknowledge the strength of the IDF (Zahal), they have seen it in the past and they understand what a Western force with high-tech weapons is capable of. They are attempting to trim these capabilities by several methods: they operate not only from military posts guarded by tanks, but they mostly operate from within urban regions taking advantage of innocent civilian populations. In Lebanon, there are houses that serve as both a civilian residence and a rocket storage facility – in the same house.”
According to Lt. Gen. Gantz, aside from complex fronts, enemies are also “planning attacks using high-tech rockets, portable systems such as anti-tank missiles, and accurate, target-specific and long-distance missiles. We saw this during the Second Lebanon War. Our Navy forces and strategic posts in the Mediterranean Sea are also under threat.”
The enemy is mainly targeting, according to Lt. Gen. Gantz, the Israeli home front and civilian population, “as an attempt to harm our operative capabilities.”
Regarding the Middle East, Lt. Gen. Gantz said that “we are currently undergoing regional turmoil that is changing the face of the Middle East. This is a widespread trend. I doubt anybody knows what characterizes ruling forces in our Arab neighbors or in the Middle East in general – whether moderate and democratic Islam or rather radical Israel will be acting against the State of Israel. Closely monitoring these trends is crucial.”
Revolutions in Arab countries: regional imbalance raises concern
The Chief of Staff mentioned that aside from the concern arising by the regional imbalance resulting from recent revolutions in Arab countries, there are also positive outcomes. “The voices in the streets are essential. Arab leaders must take the voice of the civilians into consideration and not only their interests, the civilian populations in neighboring countries are tired of being dominated and having their opinions ignored.” He continued that “there is room for concern and we must be cautious that our desires won’t become our work plans before the reality unfolds. We are in a strategic turning point that must balance out before we can decide on a plan of action.”
Lt. Gen. Gantz expressed his hope that peace will ensue with Egypt as well as other countries, though warned that additional terror squads are developing in Egypt, Syria and the Gaza Strip. “If the unwanted outcome takes place, and the surrounding bodies take a more radical course, we might find ourselves surrounded by many, armed militaries. We must be prepared for such a possibility,” he clarified.
Iran is developing military nuclear capabilities
Regarding the Iranian threat, Lt. Gen. Gantz stressed that “There is no doubt Iran is working toward military nuclear capabilities and can be fully armed within a year.” According to the Chief of Staff, “Iran is a global, regional and Israeli threat and problem. The Iranian rule is acquiring nuclear capabilities in order to become a strong power with a potential nuclear threat it will use to fortify itself and prevent any meddling in its jurisdiction.” Lt. Gen. Gantz added that “the immunity it hopes to acquire will enable Iranian rule to influence its surrounding countries and continue advancing its interests in countries around the world while taking advantage of the instability in the region to stabilize and operate from within other nations.”
Even though Iran is considered a global problem, the Chief of Staff stressed that “The State of Israel is the only country in the world Iran declared to destroy and is developing the means to do so.”
“The world must continue isolating Iran,” he said, “the pressure and financial sanctions should be continued as they are beginning to sprout results, even within Iran. Remaining involved in the Iranian nuclear project and overseeing its development is crucial. It is very important that we continue building a powerful, impressing, trustworthy, prepared, and well-trained military capabilities, and we must be ready to employ it, if the need arises.” He also added that “only the Iranian authorities can decide to discontinue development of military nuclear capabilities. However, determination from everyone may bring Iran to this essential strategic understanding.”
If we don’t continue fortifying – we simply won’t exist
Lt. Gen. Gantz stressed that in the face of the different threats the IDF (Zahal) must continue to develop offensive capabilities, accurate intelligence capabilities, and air defense means that will enable protection of civilian populations, as well as the maintaining of readiness. “It is crucial to ensure our infantry maneuvering capabilities. It must be strong, well-trained and well-equipped, since it will be required to operate in a field more challenging than ever. This isn’t anti-tank missile fire from 300 meters, this is accurate anti-tank missile fire from six kilometers away. We must give our forces the capability to operate in these areas with optimal intelligence and army-wide cooperation involving the IAF as well as the Israeli Navy,” he ruled.
Lt. Gen. Gantz said that “the IDF (Zahal) greatly strengthened during the last few years and previous gaps have been matched. It is crucial that we maintain this trend for future challenges which aren’t any less challenging. We need as much accurate, continous power as possible that will bring us to an undisputed, fast victory over our enemies, based not only on use of power but also on the way the force is constructed and the ability to use its force. This involves expertise, innovation, high-tech weapons and expansion of strengths at our disposal. We are a powerful nation and if we don’t maintain this strength, we simply will not exist.”
He added that more than any other body in Israel, the IDF (Zahal) connects and encompasses all factions of Israeli society. “We must maintain this connection between religious and secular Israelis, men and women, Israeli veterans and new immigrants, Jews and non-Jews,” Lt. Gen. Gantz stated. He mentioned that members of Israeli society must “respect one another, serve together and develop with the flag as our guide and purpose.”
“I am encouraged by IDF (Zahal) activity over the past year,” Lt. Gen. Gantz concluded and mentioned that he “meets with commanders in the field, on all fronts, recognizes difficulties, accomplishments and success. We have a powerful army, ready for any mission and I take this opportunity to thank the commander and soldiers operating the field and the commanders that worked for this country throughout the years.”