Benny Gantz
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz called on the residents of the communities adjoining the Gaza Strip border to return home. Photo by Shay Wagner / IDF
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Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz expressed a bleak view on the ramifications of Syria's civil war Wednesday, telling a security conference that none of the options would be good for Israel.

“If I look at Syria in terms of the future, when I think in terms of heads or tails strategically, it comes out negative in every case,” Gantz said at the seventh annual Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv.

“If Assad survives, he owes it to the radical axis: to Iran; to Hezbollah, which is propping him up; and to the support he is receiving from the Russians," said Gantz. "If he should fail, the ones who will rise to power there are the global jihad movement and other radical groups.”

Even if Assad stays in power, that doesn't necessarily mean he will be completely in control, the IDF chief told conference participants.

"Even if he survives, Assad does not really control all of Syria," he said. "So when I look at the Syrian front — while it is true that the Fifth Division, the Ninth Division or the Seventh Division is not about to roll onto the Golan Heights tomorrow morning, the Syria we knew has lost its stability.”

Gantz also addressed the issue of cyber warfare, saying Israel needed to increase its vigilance on that matter.

Cybersecurity is “a playing field that we need to use to the full, and I think that the State of Israel can and should do much more than it has been doing until now,” he said, adding that Israel “must be at the level of a superpower, and it can be at the level of a superpower.”

Gantz said Israel must make sure there are enough national resources dedicated to cybersecurity, which he described as “vital in the extreme.” “We cannot wait with it,” he said.

The IDF chief harshly criticized the government's delay in approving its multiyear master plan.

“We need to look ahead and move forward with building our strength, with an eye toward the future,” he said. “We need the army to be highly prepared for its tasks on an ongoing basis, both in training and in equipment.”

Gantz said this is the third such plan the army has proposed. The Halamish plan was called off because of the social-justice protests of the summer of 2011, the Oz plan was never carried out because of the change in government, and the Teuza plan “is awaiting approval,” he said.

“This is not the right way to do things,” said Gantz. "In the end, everybody pays more for it and receives less. We cannot afford to be ill-prepared or to have the army be hollow or in bad shape. An army that does not project power invites trouble. Magnificent — no; extravagant — no; but the most important thing is to be far away from being in bad shape.”