The IDF Chief of Staff has mapped out the threats and opportunities currently facing Israel in a major speech.
Speaking at the Herzliya Policy Conference, Lt Gen. Gadi Eizenkot said that Hezbollah remained the most immediate threat to Israel.
He explained that the terror group is now spread out in 240 villages in South Lebanon, “about every third or fourth house”. This is in violation of UN Resolution 1701. He also said that they are in receipt of sophisticated weaponry from Iran, some of which is Russian.
Eizenkot detailed that one third of Hezbollah’s forces are busy fighting in the Syrian civil war. They have now lost 1,800 fighters, with a further 8,000 injured, leading to a loss of morale for the Shia youth who fight there.
In addition, the army chief denied recent reports that Israel is supporting rebel groups in southern Syria. He said: “Israel is not involved in the fighting for one side or another.”
He added that Israel has treated 3,000 Syrian injured, including hundreds of children.
Eizenkot explained that Iran also remains central to Israeli national security. He said that the international community needs to make sure the Islamic Republic doesn’t turn into an isolated nuclear state like North Korea, warning that acquiring nuclear weapons is at the “centre of their strategy”.
On Gaza, the Chief of Staff said: “Hamas must choose between being a government responsible for its citizens or continuing to be a terror organization. Hamas needs to decide whether it is responsible for two million or a resistance movement that focuses on tunnels.”
Commenting on the recent electricity crisis, he said it is in Israeli interests that there is electricity for 24 hours in Gaza, but said “it’s a paradox that with [Hamas’s] millions they build attack tunnels“ instead of paying for electricity. He put the onus on the Hamas leadership to solve the crisis.
However, he praised the Palestinian Authority [PA] for security cooperation, noting that ordinary Palestinians do not want conflict with Israel but want “quiet and to make a livelihood”.
Eizenkot said he did not think Hamas had an interest in an offensive operation against Israel, citing the serious blow suffered by the terror group in the 2014 Gaza war.
Also speaking at the conference was Maj. Gen. (res) Amos Gilead, former Director odt the Political-Military Bureau in the Defence Ministry.
Gilad emphasised the importance of Israel separating politically from the Palestinians. He said: “Abu Mazen is not preparing any successors. If he resigns today or in five years he will not be leaving any clear successors and if we don’t enter a peace process we will find ourselves in a reality of violence. We have to separate from them politically, otherwise we will sink in a swamp. We have reached a crossroads.”
He also downplayed the prospects of a regional peace without peace with the Palestinians commentating that “there is a school of thought by which that the Arabs will coerce the Palestinians into peace, which would be convenient for us. I disagree with this”.