Outgoing Israeli army chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot defended the military against recent criticism of insufficient action against Palestinian terrorism in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, saying the army’s primary goal in recent years has been thwarting Iran’s efforts to establish a permanent military presence in Syria. Tehran is seeking to establish a force of 100,000 fighters in Syria, he said, and the Israeli army is preventing it from doing so, The Times of Israel reported on Monday.
Eisenkot, who is due to end his four-year tenure as army chief next month, acknowledged that the Israel Defense Forces had failed to give Israelis, especially those living near Gaza, a “feeling of security,” but indicated this was in part due to the fact that the civilian population is unaware of the majority of the military’s activities.
Comparing the threats to Israel to an iceberg, Eisenkot said that the visible dangers — terror attacks in the West Bank, rockets from Gaza — are the smallest, while “what isn’t seen, and which takes much of the army’s effort, is the multi-dimensional threat of Iran.”
While the army chief warned of ongoing threats to Israel, his speech was overall optimistic about the Israel's security situation.
“I think we can look back proudly at how the country has grown and thrived in the past year despite the mighty challenges Israel has faced, from Iran, from Syria, from Lebanon, from the West Bank, from Gaza, from international terror groups,” Eisenkot said.
“Israel has great deterrence toward our surroundings, in terms of the way we radiate power and in how we are seen by our enemies. Israel has intelligence superiority, aerial superiority, naval superiority, cybernetic superiority. [The country’s enemies] experience this,” he said.
Without elaborating, Eisenkot also added that Israel played a key role in the fight against ISIS terror group.
“The Israeli contribution to the defeat of ISIS is much greater than what the media and the public eye see. I can say this today. I didn’t think it was right to say that in 2015, 2016 or 2017,” he said.
The army chief made his remarks during a wide-ranging and extensive speech at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya at an annual event honoring former Israeli army chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, who died in 2012.