Just four months before his term as IDF Chief of Staff comes to an end, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz sat down for his first interview since Operation Protective Edge drew to a close. In the conversation with Yedioth Achronoth, Gantz warned Hezbollah in Lebanon poses a greater threat to Israel today than Hamas. All the same, he feels the danger is not pressing.
“Israel strategic position is better this Rosh Hashana (Jewish new year) than it was last year,” Gantz told the news agency. Operation Protective Edge “contributed to the national security of the state of Israel and will bring quiet to residents of the south for a continued period.”
In response to criticism leveled at the army in the wake of the operation, Gantz outlined its successes: “We axed all Hamas’s meaningful strategic strength, we destroyed all of their attack tunnels they intended to use, most of their rocket production industry, and prevented their achievements of breaching from the sea and air with drones.”
The IDF also set an example for military conduct worldwide, he said. “A number of top ranking army officials from different countries arrived here and told us: ‘Your professional conduct was unprecedented.’ We have raised the bar to level they do not know what to do with.”
Although Gantz faced additional criticism from Israelis for pulling out of Gaza without eliminating Hamas fully, he explained the decision was the government’s, not the army’s. “I’m at peace with the strategic end the Cabinet outlined, and if they wanted an end for different wars, like occupying Gaza, that would have been possible to do. But that’s not what the state decided,” he said.
Despite his positive outlook, Gantz warned Israel must not sit on its laurels. “Our enemies are currently busy with other problems, but who is next in line for all of them? Us!” stated Gantz. “If Hezbollah weren’t busy now doing what Iran tells them to do in Syria who is their fixed enemy? Us!”
“If terrorist forces in the Golan stop dealing with (Syrian President Bashar) Assad, who’s their enemy? If the thousands of refugees in Jordan need to act, who will they do that against? Will the jihadists in the Sinai only act against Egypt?”
Still, Gantz is optimistic about Israel’s chances against her enemies. “(Hezbollah leader Hassan) Nasrallah sees that the Israeli society didn’t break apart and was ready to pay the price (in Gaza), and that we know to do in Lebanon what we did in Gaza,” he said.
In a separate interview with Maariv Sof Shavua, he explained, “Each area has its own challenges and dangers, as well as a number of groups with which we can cooperate. We’ve teamed up with Egypt against Islamic Jihad in Sinai. There are a number of countries around the world that are willing to fight against Islamic State and Iran. The Palestinians don’t want terrorists living among them either.”
In terms of the Islamic State (ISIS), Gantz is not overly concerned. “Every time Islamic State comes up against a military force that is organized, determined and unified, they get trampled. The IDF has the wherewithal to defend itself against Islamic State. If they were to attack us, they would lose outright.”
Overall, Gantz can look back at his 37-year military career with a sense of pride. “I’m leaving whoever will be my replacement a very good army. Much more integrated, with a higher ethical and professional standard.”
Both interviews were published Friday.