If hostilities resume, it would be better to be Israeli than Lebanese

IDF chief of staff says Israel may be facing multi-arena instability with Syrian unrest, but, the IDF is ready to meet all new challenges, including Syria & the Hezbollah.


The ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah is holding steady seven years after the Second Lebanon War ended, but should hostilities resume, it would be better to be an Israeli citizen than a Lebanese citizen, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. told the Herzliya Conference on Monday evening.
Benny Gantz at military forum, January 7, 2013 - Photo IDF Spokesperson

Benny Gantz at military forum, January 7, 2013 – Photo: IDF Spokesperson

During a speech that opened the annual gathering, Gantz said Israeli deterrence against Hezbollah remained “authentic.” He noted that Hezbollah was involved “up to its neck” in the Syrian civil war, sending thousands of fighters to support the Assad regime.

He warned that the northern arenas “could explode at any moment,” adding, “I hope this quiet is maintained… but if not, we are prepared, and we will know to act with the required force… directly against Hezbollah and its state surroundings. Lebanon [as] the neighboring state can’t be sovereign but not responsible. If this goes off, I’d rather be an Israeli civilian, and not a Lebanese civilian.”

Turning his gaze to Syria, Gantz said that arena had become “very unstable and dangerous.” Although the IDF no longer faces six Syrian army divisions threatening to invade the Golan Heights, terror organizations are growing in Syria. “They’re fighting Assad. But guess what. It’s us afterwards. We could be the next challenge for the same organizations,” Gantz warned.

The chief of staff said that should radical rebel elements get hold of strategic weapons in Syria, there is a reasonable chance that they would use them. “The Golan is not the same Golan that it used to be,” he added.

Addressing the issue of Iran, Gantz said, “You can cassume that this preoccupies me on a daily and weekly basis.” He did not elaborate.

The IDF is having to adapt to a reality of multi-arena threats, Gantz said, adding that the chances of a deterioration were “very high.”

“An incident can turn into a bigger event, which can cross arenas,” he added. “Threats haven’t disappeared. They’ve changed form.”

To deal with the changing nature of the region, the IDF has developed a strategy that places offense and ground maneuvers at its heart, Gantz told the audience. The military’s aim is to ensure that “tomorrow, we can win the war. Not to start it, but win it. If we won’t be ready, we won’t forigve ourselves.”

The strategy is based on creating flexibility among ground forces, enabling them to quickly deploy from a northern to southern front, or vice versa. “The air force is outstanding at this type of flexibility. We can attack targets in one day that previously took whole wars to strike,” Gantz said.

Accurate yet devastating fire power, enhanced intelligence capabilities, and developing ground offensive abilities are key areas, the chief of staff said. Creating long-term solutions to security problems can only be achieved by ground offensives, he stressed.

“We’ll have to go to the tunnels of Gaza, and the thickets of Lebanon. Because that’s where the enemy is. We can’t do this only through ‘video games,'” Gantz said. “It will require our physical presence on the ground. We’ll have to enter villages.”

Urban conflict will be a key feature of future battles, he predicted. The IDF will strive to bring any future conflict to an end as quickly as possible.

In Gaza, there is a large gap between Hamas’s fiery rhetoric and the four-month truce that has been violated on only one occasion, Gantz said. He expressed hope the quiet would last, but warned, “If not, we’re prepared to act as is necessary in the unique Gaza combat conditions.”

Gantz said recent West Bank violence is being contained, adding that the coming visit of US President Barack Obama was acting as a catalyst for the violence.

He said it would also be wrong to ignore the effect of last November’s conflict with Hamas on the West Bank.

“Every night, IDF soldiers, the Border Police… make arrests, confront [rioters], to ensure that this quiet continues,” Gantz said.

Jordan was “stable, but sensitive,” Gantz asserted, while Egypt, for its part, “has an interest in promoting security in the Sinai Peninsula.”

The IDF has a positive relationship with the Egyptian authorities, he said.

View original Jerusalem Post publication at: http://www.jpost.com/Defense/Article.aspx?id=306073