Newly appointed Armor Corps Commander, Brigadier-General Agai Yehezkel, welcomed his new enlisted troops Sunday, saying Hizbullah may be surprised with just how ready we are to handle whatever it has in stored. "
The defense establishment is no stranger to those who voice their concerns about Hizbullah's continued strengthening since the end of the Second Lebanon War, but Yehezkel sees the Armor Corps as a key player in any future conflict.
"The process the IDF had undergone since the end of the war, mainly that of training and combat readiness, positions us in a different place that we were two years ago," he told Ynet.
"I don’t thing Hizbullah would be a match for us and the Armor Corps is a key player in this – it is the heart and soul of military maneuvering and it has some of the most advanced weapons available at its disposal."
Looking at his recruits' somewhat perplexed faces, as he greeted them in the Military Induction Center, Yehezkel said he was sure it was nothing more than first-day jitters. After all, this summer's induction has noted an increase in the number of youngsters who wish to enlist in the IDF's tanks' units, which has nearly doubled.
"We aim to have motivation increase even more," he said. The Armor Corps is part of the GOC Army Headquarters and the GOC "is now exposing young people to more of the corps' operational achievements, its technologies and accomplishments. If you want to know what we do, we'll make sure you get all the information, even if it means coming all the way to your house," he added.
The Armor Corps got many of its new recruits from a rather unexpected place: The last class of enlistees included more that half of those who applied for the Air Force pilots' training, but for some reason did not make the cut.
"I'm not surprised; tanks are the F-16 of the GOC Headquarters. These days, if you put a pilot in a tank, he might get lost among all the technical equipment," said Yehezkel, smiling.
Keeping it cool
On a more serious note, however, Yehezkel has been closely following the conduct of Armor Brigade 71, who is tasked with maintaining the order in the Naalin area, near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The area has been the scene of many protests rallied, staged by Palestinians and peace activists, who are demonstrating against the building of the security fence in the area; with many of the rallies turning into violent riots, in which the protestors clash with IDF forces and Border Guard officers.
"Brigade 71 is doing outstanding work. Obviously, the IDF's main goal is operational, but as long as we are needed for other security details we will perform them to the best of our ability. Is policing what we strive for? No. I would be happier if we could carry out more missions as we do in the Gaza Strip."
As for the now infamous Naalin incident in which a soldier shot at a bound Palestinian detainee, Yehezkel said both in incident and the way it was handled by the IDF were inappropriate, but he does not exempt the protestors from responsibilities to the events.
"We have to be able to deal with incidents like the riots in Naalin calmly, but you can't ignore some of the facts that are not made so public, like those of (Palestinians) protestors deliberately pushing their children into teargas clouds, security fence construction crews who have their cars stoned, bulldozer that are vandalized etc.," he said.
As for Brigade 71's Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Omri, Yehezkel declined comment, saying he was not at liberty to discuss an ongoing Military Advocate General case.