IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz - Michal Fattal
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz. Photo by Michal Fattal
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Israel Defense Forces chief Benny Gantz criticized former Israeli officials on Tuesday for recently speaking out publicly on issues regarding Iran.

“There has been much chatter on Iran in the public discourse,” Gantz said during a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting. “Chatter full of exaggerations.  Operationally, it is impossible to know where they’re aiming, or where they’re planning. Only a very few people know anything, what is possible, and what is impossible. Many people are boasting about their knowledge – but only a few really know anything.”

Gantz added that debates over Iran should only be held in the relevant settings. “There are people who used to be in the know, but are no longer,” specified Gantz. “The only ones who can decide to stop building a nuclear reactor are the Iranians. Iran has been striving for, and is still striving for a military nuclear reactor. Iran has yet to decide to cross that line – because of strategic considerations.”

Gantz stressed that isolation within the international community, economic sanctions, and credible military threats have made it clear to the Iranians that now is not the time to cross the boundary that has been set for them. “The chances of war initiated by our enemies are low, although the possibility for tension to deteriorate into war is possible, as it is throughout the Middle East,” added Gantz.

“That tension is like a virus, it spreads throughout the region and every nation deals with it differently. Until now, that tension has not yet managed to reach the arenas most problematic for Israel, which include Iran,” said Gantz.

Gantz also mentioned to the Knesset committee members that the IDF is distressed over the passage of military equipment from Syria to Hezbollah. “This subject distresses us now as much as ever, especially if the Syrian government falls apart. We see a great deal of Iranian and Hezbollah involvement in events taking place in Syria. Instability developing in the Golan Heights is becoming worse and worse because of the conflicts in Syria, including in areas bordering Israel. They have yet to reach the level of destructive actions, but it is yet within reach,” said Gantz.

According to Gantz, every development on the ground in Syria is a loss for Israel. “If Assad falls, indeed there will be a crack in the radical axis, although it will create instability in Syria,” explained Gantz. “If Assad remains in power, he will be weak, and still be in the same, unstable place. There is a price for instability in the region, and I think we will pay it in the form of more activity along the border between Israel and Syria, and smuggling from Syria to Hezbollah,” added Gantz.

Gantz  took advantage of the opportunity to request additional funds for the defense budget. “I need to ensure that operational units are not hollow, and can execute any objective,” said Gantz. “Without an increase in the budget, there will be fewer planes. We are not in a similar situation to that of 2006. The majority of our units are in top shape and readiness,” said Gantz.

“Generally speaking however, if I were to make a surprise visit to one of the emergency equipment storage facilities, we’re in a different situation completely. I have a great deal of confidence in our army, and complete faith in our air force and intelligence units. The current budget framework cannot continue without a multi-year plan. The strategic reality is complicated, and it shows a negative trend. We must not continue without a multi-year plan,” added Gantz.

Read this article in Hebrew