Barak Warns of 'Illusion of Bogus Calm'

Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned Israelis yesterday that they must be prepared for the next war "as if it is just around the corner."

In an address on Mount Herzl commemorating those killed in the Yom Kippur War 34 years ago, Barak said that "Israel emerged from that terrible war changed, pained and more modest, but undefeated."

"The lesson [for the nation] is that in matters of defense we should not be deceived by the illusion of a bogus calm," Barak warned.

He added that "in matters pertaining to our national security, Israel's power must be ready and prepared at all times. We must always care and update our qualitative edge."

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi also stressed the importance of the lessons of that war, saying that "for me, the lesson of the war is the following imperative: to face reality honestly and rationally, and not be led by wishful thinking."

The general added that "the fact that an independent, sovereign Jewish state exists in this area is not self-evident. We must fight for it every morning anew. Even on the eve of the 60th anniversary of independence, we know that we are still fighting here for the legitimacy of our existence, for our natural right to have a sovereign and independent national existence in our homeland."

At the end of the ceremony a platoon commander of newly recruited paratroopers, First Lieutenant Assaf Rothschild, approached Ashkenazi and asked him to address his men. The chief of staff gathered the recruits and told them that "we failed our watch over Israel during the Yom Kippur War. But those who in the end changed the outcome on the field of battle were the soldiers themselves. Now it is your turn. Take advantage of every moment during your basic training, even when it is difficult."