Benny Gantz and Ehud Barak
Benny Gantz and Ehud Barak consulting during a northern border tour, Feb. 15, 2011. Photo by Yaron Kaminsky
Text size

Israel's deterrence against Hezbollah remains strong, but the current quiet on the northern front won't last forever, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned yesterday during a tour of the border.

He was accompanying the new Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Benny Gantz, on his first visit to front-line army units since taking office on Monday.

Though it was ostensibly a get-acquainted tour for Gantz, Barak was the one who did most of the talking with soldiers and officers. Gantz mainly just listened.

"The Hezbollah outposts on the other side can identify him - he's always been so tall!" joked Barak of the new chief of staff.

As for the situation on the border itself, Barak warned the soldiers not to be complacent.

"Even though it's quiet and deterrence exists - Hezbollah remembers the blows that landed on its head in 2006 very well - it's not forever," he said, referring to the Second Lebanon War. "Under certain circumstances, things could deteriorate."

Regarding events in the broader Middle East, including the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, Barak noted, "the entire region is changing before our eyes. We saw what happened in Lebanon; the government was replaced by one that is less convenient for many reasons: It's more affiliated with Hezbollah. We saw what happened in Tunisia, and now in Egypt."

Barak said he thought relations with Egypt would remain stable.

"But it shows to what extent the entire region is unstable," he said. "We're seeing demonstrations in other countries in the region, and we're seeing Turkey change."

Gantz declined to address the soldiers with the media present, and when asked by journalists why he chose to tour the northern border first, he insisted there was no special significance to this choice.

"It's my first day as chief of staff, so the tour could have been anyplace," he said. "And we will get to everyplace soon."

Barak and Gantz have another joint tour scheduled for tomorrow.