Israeli Army Chief in Rare Comment: I Assume Talks With Palestinians Will Progress

Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz also says Israel is prepared against Hezbollah in the north, where the IDF can’t afford an active front.

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IDF chief Benny Gantz speaking at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, February 1, 2015
IDF chief Benny Gantz speaking at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, February 1, 2015Credit: Adi Cohen Zedek
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said Sunday he assumed Israel would find a way to move forward with the peace process, a rare comment on a nonmilitary issue by the head of the Israel Defense Forces.

“We are in a very sensitive period in terms of Israel’s political situation, and I am in uniform,” he said. “But there is no doubt that this topic is very important,” he said, referring to negotiations with Palestinians.

“I assume that a way will be found to move forward with it. But on this topic, time will tell.”

Two weeks before the end of his term, Gantz was speaking at a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.

He also commented on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ efforts at international agencies such as the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He said Abbas’ “running ahead holds some risk that responsibility for dealing with the matter will be shifted. Whatever happens, it’s a privatization of the topic in the international arena.”

Gantz added that he did not believe that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the source of other conflicts around the world, such as the fighting in Iraq. “That’s nothing more than a strategic pretense,” he said.

He added that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was vital when considering Israel’s ties with the international community. “Given security aspects and challenges such as the ones we’re familiar with, Israel’s ability to rely on international cooperation, among other things, is of great importance,” he said.

Gantz also mentioned the tension in the north following the attack in Syria that killed Hezbollah operatives and an Iranian general, and the Hezbollah strike that killed two Israeli soldiers.

“We are prepared and alert in the north,” he said. “We dealt with that all weekend and will continue to deal with it. There is no doubt we can’t afford to have the northern front active.”

He added that Hezbollah’s patience, along with its intelligence-gathering, had led to the strike that killed the two soldiers. Gantz said that since Hezbollah’s anti-tank missile had been fired into Israel from nearly 5.5 kilometers away, security for border communities had to be improved.

He also criticized the decision to briefly close Ben-Gurion International Airport during the summer war in Gaza after a rocket fell nearby.

“There was not a single reason to shut down the airport during Operation Protective Edge. It will be given defense priority in an extraordinary way,” he said, adding that Hezbollah had rockets that no other countries in the world possessed.

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