Israel’s wars of the future could include an al-Qaeda attack on the Golan Heights, rockets on Eilat and a Hamas assault on the Erez crossing with Gaza, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said Tuesday.
“The morning of the war could open with a missile on the Kirya building [the Defense Ministry’s HQ in Tel Aviv], with a cyber attack on banks, with a mass charge on a border town, or a tunnel packed with explosives that reaches a kindergarten,” Gantz told attendees at a conference at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center
“These organizations, like Hezbollah,” warned Gantz, “possess abilities that countries lack.”
Gantz addressed recent cuts in the defense budget, expressing confidence the IDF could still meet its obligations. “We are constantly engaged in an extensive streamlining process unprecedented in scope, which has not been done in the IDF for many years. The process is taking place so that we will be able to direct appropriate resources to address future challenges.
“The reduced defense budget accelerated the pace of streamlining,” Gantz continued. “In light of the budgetary constraints we must act quicker than we expected and reality still demands that we tie our security to our resources. The IDF understands the national priorities.”
As chief of staff, Gantz led the IDF during Operation Pillar of Defense in late 2012, which struck Hamas in response to ongoing rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. Under Gantz, the IDF has also had to keep a close eye on the Iranian nuclear program and developments in Syria.
The budgetary squeeze has not made that job any easier.
The 2013 budget called for a NIS 3 billion cut (some $820 million) in the defense budget, winnowing it down to NIS 58.4 billion — part of a six-year plan that nonetheless envisions significant growth in 2016-2018.
In response, the IDF unveiled in July a five-year restructuring of the army’s deployed assets that would see the retirement of some of its ancient Patton tanks and M109 artillery cannons, 3,000-5,000 career soldiers, several air squadrons and even naval units. Gantz indicated the plan will save NIS 7 billion (some $1.9 billion) over the coming five years.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in September that he would extend Gantz’s three-year term by an additional year.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.