Given recent changes in the Middle East, Israel must prepare for a battle in several theaters, outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said Monday at the Herzliya Conference.
"The connection between the different players requires us to contend with more than one theater," he said.
The radical camp in the Middle East is gaining strength, Ashkenazi warned, adding that "the moderate camp among the traditional Arab leadership is weakening." He also made note of what he characterized as the "fascinating phenomenon" whereby power is shifting to the people of the region thanks to online social networks.
Army chief warns about growing threats (Photo: Uri Porat)
The army chief said that in the wake of the growing threat of radical Islam among Israel's neighbors, the defense budget would have to be boosted in the coming years. The main change faced by the army is the widening spectrum of threats, he said.
"Because of this spectrum, we must prepare for a conventional war…it would be a mistake to prepare for non-conventional war or limited conflicts and then expect that overnight the forces will operate in an all-out-war," he said.
However, Ashkenazi said that both Hamas and Hezbollah pose only a limited threat to Israel at this time.
"I do not underestimate Hamas or Hezbollah, but they cannot take over the Negev or Galilee," he said.
Hezbollah and Hamas understood that encountering the IDF on the classic battlefields is lethal, and are therefore fighting out of urban areas, the army chief added.
Ashkenazi also praised Israel's youths and said they possess impressive qualities despite their lowly image. The army chief also highlighted the growing desire among Israel's youngsters to join combat units.
"We are going to the schools, and I want to tell you that these young people, with the piercing and tattoos or whatever you call it, are enlisting," he said. "These are incredibly high-quality youths."