Israeli Army Chief on Iran's Underground Missile Factories in Lebanon: No Need to Panic

Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot tells lawmakers reducing Iran's influence in the region is 'no less important than defeating ISIS'

Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot at the 2017 IDC Herzliya Conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday June 20th 2017.
David Bachar

Keeping Iran far from Israel’s borders and reducing its influence near Israel is “no less important than defeating the Islamic State,” the head of the Israel Defense Forces, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, said Wednesday. “For Israel, perhaps this is even more important.”

In the 11 years since the Second Lebanon War, the IDF has dramatically improved its intelligence and operational capabilities, Eisenkot said, speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.    

He accused Hezbollah of constantly violating UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which set the terms for ending the monthlong war in the summer of 2006. Eisenkot accused Hezbollah of operating from civilian areas in southern Lebanon.

An Iranian protester with the image of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on his shirt, stands on a representation of an Israeli flag during an annual pro-Palestinian rally in Tehran on Friday June 23, 2017.
Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

He said the UN force UNIFIL is helping maintain calm in southern Lebanon, but the UN leadership does not do enough when Hezbollah violates the resolution.

The IDF’s top priority vis-à-vis Hezbollah is to prevent the Shi’ite group from improving the accuracy of its missiles and rockets, Eisenkot said, adding that at the moment Hezbollah’s rockets were not particularly accurate.

Regarding reports that Iran was setting up facilities to manufacture weapons in Lebanon, Eisenkot urged Israelis to “put things in perspective and not panic.”

Regarding the West Bank, Eisenkot said the army’s approach was based mainly on Israel’s security interests, and for that reason “it is in our interest for the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria to have hope.”

On the controversy about the plan to add thousands of housing units for the Palestinians in the West Bank town of Qalqilyah, Eisenkot said the army sought to implement the government’s policy, fulfill the army’s duty to prevent violence, and protect Israel’s security interests.

Eisenkot also complained about the ministers and Knesset members who criticized army officers and the coordinator of government activities in the territories over the Qalqilyah controversy.

Moving on to Gaza, where the electricity supply had been reduced to less than three hours a day, Eisenkot said Israeli policy was based on “intelligent risk management.”

In recent weeks Hamas agreed to pay for fuel imported to Gaza from Egypt. “Hamas understood well that the electricity crisis in the Strip is an internal Palestinian matter, so it decided to resolve it using its economic resources," Eisenkot said.