Ashkenazi, who arrived at the recruit center for the last time before leaving office, was accompanied by IDF Personnel Directorate head Major-General Avi Zamir, and head of the Home Front Command headquarters Brigadier-General Zvika Tessler.
The IDF chief was briefed by Major-General Zamir and commander of the Meitav unit, Colonel Gadi Agmon, who is responsible for recruitment at the reception center.
"It is calm on the border, and I welcome that," Ashkenazi told the recruits. "This relative calm allows the State's citizens to live normally. But this reality could change, and during your service we may have to deal with difficult challenges along the State's borders."
As for the situation in the region, Ashkenazi said that "even after 62 years of independence, some of our neighbors have yet to accept our tight to exist in the Middle East. Serving in the IDF is your generation's mission. I am sure you understand that responsibility."
Ashkenazi with recruits. Concerned about draft dodging (Photo: Ofer Amram)
Addressing the leak of classified documents by the WikiLeaks website, the army chief said that the extent of the matter was still unclear but that the Military Intelligence unit was monitoring the matter, which "could affect the dialogue with some people in the future." This teaches us about a new world with many risks, he added.
Moving on to the situation in Lebanon, Ashkenazi estimated that the chances that Hezbollah would act against Israel after the international tribunal probing the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri delivered its findings were small.
According to the IDF chief, most players involved in the matter would like to maintain stability in the region. "There are many scenarios when it comes to this issue," he said. "The situation is dynamic and developing. The scenario that this will be directed at our northern border is less likely."
'Mossad chief's part in Galant affair marginal'
Ashkenazi will be replaced by the designated IDF chief of staff, Yoav Galant, in February. Major-General Yair Naveh has been appointed deputy chief of staff.
During the visit, the army chief expressed his support for newly elected Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, who is said to have been linked to the "Galant document" affair. "His part in the matter is marginal," Ashkneazi said. "It has been examined from all directions."
He added that Pardo was a worthy and professional personal person, and that he saw no problem in the fact that senior defense establishment officials were being replaced within a short period of time. "Rotation is part of our culture. They are all people with experience, and this is a reasonable process."
The soldiers the army chief spoke will be taken to the Shivta training base in southern Israel on Tuesday evening, where they will begin their basic training.
Major-General Zamir said recently that some 50% of men required to serve in the army have not been drafted or have not completed full military service. According to predictions, Zamir said, this figure is expected to reach 60% by 2020. The growth stems mostly from the number of yeshiva students exempt from the army in order to study Torah.
The motivation for combat service has grown by more than 8% since Ashkenazi took office in 2007. He noted that more people drafted to the army understood the commitment and extent of responsibility, while expressing his concern over the growing number of young people who did not enlist due to the "Torah is his profession" policy.
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