IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said Wednesday that Israel is in the midst of a major campaign to thwart attempts by Iran, Syria, and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist organization to arm themselves with increasingly accurate missiles.
Addressing the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense committee, the army’s top officer gave a review of current security threats against the Jewish state.
Eisenkot said that the primary concern for Israel is what he called the “accuracy project” — efforts by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah to equip themselves with accurate missiles.
“We are engaged in a whole campaign against the accuracy project and it is our top priority,” he noted.
Regarding the efforts by Hezbollah to obtain advanced rockets through Syria, Eisenkot said, “We are working all the time against the project with a wide variety of tools that it is best to keep quiet about, and with the aim of not causing a deterioration [in the situation].”
Iran has reportedly begun constructing new missile factories in Lebanon after Israeli airstrikes in Syria destroyed several shipments of rockets destined for southern Lebanese launching pads in recent years.
Eisenkot said “decreasing Iranian influence in the areas near Israel’s borders is no less important than defeating Islamic State, and for Israel perhaps even more.”
On Sunday, Defense Minister Avidgor Liberman issued a public warning to Hezbollah and its Iranian patrons over the development of rocket manufacturing installations inside Lebanon.
“We are fully aware” of the rocket factories, Liberman told military correspondents in a briefing in Tel Aviv. “We know what needs to be done… We won’t ignore the establishment of Iranian weapons factories in Lebanon.”
Last month, at the Herzliya Conference, IDF intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi said that “Iran has been working for the past year to set up indigenous infrastructures for producing precise munitions both in Lebanon and Yemen. We can’t ignore that, and we won’t.”
On Wednesday, Eisenkot assured MKs that Israel’s military capability is the best it has ever been.
“The IDF has an operational intelligence capability that it has not had since its inception,” he said. “Eleven years after the Second Lebanon War, there is a very good security reality on both sides of the border. The time was used to dramatically improve the IDF’s ability.”
However, Hezbollah is constantly breaking the terms of the ceasefire, Eisenkot warned.
“There are constant violations of the [UN] resolution 1701 by the Hezbollah organization by using civilian and built-up areas for cover.”
“UNIFIL contributes to the quiet but is not doing enough to reflect Hezbollah’s permanent violation to the UN decision-makers,” he said referring to the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon.
Eisenkot also touched on a controversial plan, allegedly approved by the security cabinet, that would reportedly have approved construction of some 15,000 apartments in Qalqilya, a Palestinian city in the West Bank. After news of the scheme broke, some cabinet members, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, distanced themselves from the plan claiming they had never agreed to such extensive expansion of a Palestinian city that is nestled against Israel’s central region.
In the ensuing spat, accusations were made that the defense establishment had tried to implement the plan of its own accord and slip it by the government by hiding its full-scale. Liberman denied the claims, saying the cabinet was presented with all of the details. Netanyahu eventually ruled that it would be debated for a second time by the security cabinet.
“The Civil Administration draws its authority from the authority of the Central Command; there is no independent policy,” Eisenkot said referring to the IDF body responsible for administering the West Bank territories. “We are subordinate to the political echelon and act according to the law.”
“The Qalqilya plan is implementation of policy and in principle serves the security interests of Israel. “These steps are part of the ability to realize our responsibility to prevent deterioration [in the situation.”
At the time Liberman explained that the plan was part of Israel’s “carrot and stick” approach to the Palestinians, in which it would reward areas that show a dearth in terror attacks with material benefits.