President Peres and the Chief of the General Staff speak about various security issues at a Hanukkah celebration

Date: 15/10/2009, 12:23 PM     Author: Arnon Ben-Dror

“We cannot bring politics into the military. If we do not have a unified and disciplined military, we will not be able to fight and we will not be able to win.” So said President Shimon Peres Monday evening (Dec. 14) at a candle lighting ceremony for the fourth night of the Hanukkah holiday with Nahal Brigade soldiers on the Yiftach military base.

In answer to a question from one of the soldiers, Peres emphasized the importance of a commander’s authority and said that “if in every operation there were two commanders – one military and one political – we would not be able to fight. Everyone from the Chief of the General Staff to the regular soldier has one commander in every situation. It is not important which political party one belongs to, the IDF (Zahal) must be of unequivocal importance in the chain of command”.

With reference to Operation Cast Lead, Peres said: “Everyone who criticizes Cast Lead must ask himself what our situation would be without the operation, which succeeded in stopping a plot which had continued for eight years in the South, and also taught us lessons about our enemy, in this case – Hamas.”

Regarding the talks about the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit Peres said: “If it was up to us alone, he would be released soon, but it is not only up to us. Within Hamas there are differences of opinion – the internal authorities see the release of prisoners as more of an achievement than the spokespeople do.” He added that “it is possible the differences of opinion will end very soon” and that in any event the State of Israel will do everything possible for the release of Gilad Shalit.

The Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, who accompanied President Peres on his visit along with GOC of the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, and commanders of IDF (Zahal) Infantry Corps brigades, first thanked President Peres for the constant support he gives the IDF (Zahal). To the soldiers he then made a connection to the Chanukah holiday by saying that during Operation Cast Lead they had succeeded in ridding the State of darkness just as the Maccabees did during their rebellion against the Hellenist empire.

“The IDF (Zahal) exists so that people in Israel can live quiet, normal lives,” continued Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi, “and after eight years of rocket-fire on the South, we have achieved this”. However, he emphasized, the IDF (Zahal) is not resting on its laurels. “We do not have delusions. We are realistic and we understand that the situation can change, and therefore we are prepared. We understand that we may be tested at any day and at any hour, and I am convinced that we will succeed.”

The GOC of the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, also spoke about the relative quiet in the South and said: “A year has passed since Operation Cast Lead and the results and achievements are noticeable in the field, especially to the residents of that region. This is the quietest year I can remember in the past decade or more, and a quiet like immediately affects the public.”

As did the Chief of the General Staff, Maj. Gen. Galant also emphasized that this is just one segment in a continuous battle, and he said: “The soldiers here know that we must prepare to continue, and that if we are forced to do so, we will have to fight and attain more achievements.”

Finally, Maj. Gen. Galant thanked the President for his support of the IDF (Zahal) and presented him with an Appreciation Certificate which emphasized his efforts “to prove the righteousness of the path of IDF (Zahal) soldiers and commanders.”