Despite a period of relative calm between Israel and Gaza, terrorists in the Palestinian enclave are arming themselves with missiles that can reach deep into Israel’s heartland, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz declared Monday.
Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, an annual national security gathering at the Interdisciplinary Center in the central coastal town, Gantz gave a sweeping overview of Israel’s security situation, saying instability was everywhere, but military deterrence was working to keep war at bay.
Gantz said Hamas in the Gaza Strip was not looking for another war with Israel, but terrorists there were still undertaking a “dramatic” replenishing of their missile stockpiles.
In Gaza there was has been “a dramatic increase in medium- and long-range rockets,” he said.
His statement came hours after two rockets were fired out of Gaza at southern Israel, causing no damage.
Gantz said that the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah also had no immediate plans to attack Israel, given the potential consequences.
“Hezbollah is deterred,” he said. “It knows what will happen if it enters a war against us, and that it will push Lebanon dozens of years backward.”
On Iran and its nuclear program, Gantz commented that “Iran’s desire to negotiate with the West is a result of its isolation and the newfound power of the street in the Middle East.”
He sounded relatively optimistic about the P5+1’s ongoing negotiations with the Islamic Republic, asserting that “with enough resolve, it’s possible to prevent Iran from getting nukes, whether with force or without.”
But what was a repeated theme throughout his address was the instability and unpredictability of the region.
“Jihadists are remaking the Sykes-Picot borders of old,” Gantz noted, referring to the World War I-era secret lines dividing the Middle East between British and French spheres of influence.
“We must remain vigilant and prepared, but we also cannot tell you what the story will be tomorrow. If we are sitting and enjoying a cup of espresso at 9:30 a.m., by 10:30 a.m. we could be at war.”
Gantz also touched upon Syria, with considerably less optimism: “It is like a deck of cards which has collapsed. As long as [President Bashar] Assad is in power, there will be no effective solution. I expect we could see another decade of violence there.”
He also warned against cutting Israel’s defense budget. According to Gantz, “We have no alternative but to stand here as a strong and united nation.”