The IDF’s retiring Chief of Staff sums up 37 years in uniform, answers back to critics: Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge was a victory’
One month after the war with Hamas in Gaza ended and four months before his term as the Israeli army’s Chief of Staff ends, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz is sticking to his guns, claiming Operation Protective Edge was a success and a victory of the army.
“A number of top ranking army officials from different countries arrived here and told us: ‘Your professional conduct was unprecedented.’ We have raised the bar to level they do not know what to do with,” the top general told Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth in his first interview since the war has ended, to be published in full on Friday.
“Israel strategic position is better this Rosh Hashana (Jewish new year) than it was last year,” Gantz said.
In a separate interview published Thursday on Haaretz daily, Gantz insisted Israel achieved a decisive victory in this summer’s hostilities with Hamas.”Hamas, in its present condition, will not be quick to allow the security situation with us to deteriorate again,” he told Haaretz. Hamas’s ability to fight Israel has suffered a blow, and the organization lost “resources, tunnels, rockets,” he added.
Gantz however refused to waste time looking back and preferred instead to discuss the next threat Israel is facing – this time from the northern front.
“The threat facing Israel from the Lebanon is much larger than that posed by Gaza,” Gantz told Yedioth Ahronoth, an estimation echoed recently by several senior officers in the Israeli army amid the general instability in the region, mainly in Israel’s second northern neighbor Syria.
Earlier this month a military official confirmed that Israel’s Northern Command has reinforced its positions near the Lebanese border in recent months as it prepares for an attack from Hezbollah. According to the official, the terrorist group is poised to launch a major string of attacks in the Upper Galilee or Western Galilee regions in Israel.
However, not wanting to raise the alarm just yet, Gantz told Haaretz that in the army’s assessment, there was a slim chance of another round of hostilities breaking out in 2015 since “our enemies have other challenges,” and “both Hezbollah and Hamas don’t want to start a war with us right now.”
In both interviews Gantz also addressed the growing criticism he has had to face in the past few months regarding the army’s conduct towards Hamas in Gaza, which many claimed was too lenient, and the more serious criticism accusing the army of not dealing with Gaza’s underground tunnel threat in time, despite the prior knowledge of their existence and of the danger those tunnels were posing for the Israeli citizens living in the communities along the border with Gaza.
“The IDF, the politicians, Cabinet members… we all knew and understood the tunnel threat,” Gantz admitted, noting that the strategic objectives of the operation were not “the occupation of Gaza or the collapse of Hamas,” and summing up the issue by saying the critics were people “without responsibility for anything, except for holding a meeting.”
Regarding his departure from the army after 37 years of military service, Gantz said: “I’m leaving whoever will be my replacement a very good army. Much more integrated, with a higher ethical and professional standard.”
View original i24news publication at: http://www.i24news.tv/en/news/israel/diplomacy-defense/45924-141002-gantz-lebanon-poses-bigger-threat-than-gaza