Israel will need to deal its enemies in the northern front another blow in the future, outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz told Channel 2 news Friday night in a farewell interview.
Gantz, who will be succeeded on Sunday by Maj. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, said Israel was well prepared for the continuing threats it faces from Hezbollah in the north and Palestinian terrorism in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
“To fix the Middle East you need more than a chief of staff,” Gantz told Channel 2. “What (I) need to do is ensure we are prepared. And I think that, with all due modesty… the army is ready.”
Asked if further fighting will be required in the north, Gantz answered: “Yes, yes, definitely.”
Gantz said he felt Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip last summer was a success “considering the goals we set for ourselves, considering the alternative actions that may have been on the table.”
Since the end of the campaign some government officials have, anonymously, criticized the army’s handling of the offensive, accusing the military leadership of timidity and lack of conviction.
The army chief dismissed such allegations, indicating he believed them to be nothing but attempts to score political points.
“It’s nothing but an attempt to win achievements connected to statements which are disconnected from reality and which are disconnected from the positions (these people) took in real time,” he said.
Gantz shepherded the army through the Arab uprisings, the rise and fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the cyclonic civil war in Syria, and the deteriorating security situation along several of Israel’s borders.
His era was marked by propriety — a departure from the scandal-smeared term of his predecessor Gabi Ashkenazi — but also a lack of outright military victories, raising questions about whether such victories are even possible in the age of asymmetric and amoral warfare conducted against civilians and from within civilian centers.
The war in Syria, having claimed 200,000 lives, has knocked on Israel’s door repeatedly. Both Iran and Syria have attempted to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah in return for its service in Syria. Israel has reportedly responded on more than six occasions; each of those strikes carry with it the slight, but not insignificant, chance of being drawn into war. Gantz, like his predecessor, was reportedly able to walk a fine line with Syria while maintaining the Israeli deterrence vis-à-vis Hezbollah.
He also led two operations against Hamas in Gaza. The first was particularly well handled: Operation Pillar of Defense lasted for a total of eight days and began with the targeted killing of Hamas’s military commander, Ahmad Jabari.
The second, Operation Protective Edge this past summer, ended ambiguously. It took 50 days. Thousands of rockets were fired at the citizens of Israel. And Hamas, a terror organization that learns quickly from its mistakes, was neither thrown back on its heels during its campaign against the mighty Israeli military nor was it ever surprised. Its military machine, operating a few miles overland from Israel, was never in danger of being crushed.
If Israel is forced back into combat in Gaza in the coming two to three years, the campaign will be seen as a failure. If it holds for 10 years, like the Second Lebanon War, it will be seen as successful.
Mitch Ginsburg contributed to this report.