IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz addressed the various threats Israel faces amid unrest in the Middle East on Tuesday.
Speaking at the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Gantz said that while past threats were still relevant, new ones challenge to the IDF in handling numerous fronts under a tight timetable.
"There's a new player in the Middle East - the street," he noted. "The IDF has drawn lessons from the Nakba Day events and knows it may find itself facing large-scale popular protests in the coming months.
Gantz and MK Shaul Mofaz (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
"The IDF is preparing for demonstrations in the West Bank, the Gaza strip and Israel's borders by training relevant forces, forming the right MO and readying equipment. These threats warrant an extended budget framework for the security establishment."
Gantz estimated that the next conflict will be brief but intense. "The IDF is preparing for a multiple-front threat. In fighting groups operating out of urban areas, we shall be forced to exercise a lot of force, even if it will see the other side paying a painful price."
He said it was unlikely that Syria will start a front with Israel to turn attention away from domestic protests. "Assad has no idea today what Syria will look like this coming weekend or the next," he said. "This uncertainty bothers him as much as it bothers us."
Gantz noted that Hezbollah was involved to a certain extent in Syria's protests. He also addressed the Iranian threat saying that the Islamic Republic supports radical elements.
The IDF chief estimated Egypt did not pose a threat to Israel, but stressed that it was not as stable as in the past. "The fence being built in the south will provide a solution to the infiltration and arms smuggling issues."
Referring to the upcoming Turkish flotilla, Gantz said: "The organizers are working to provoke and spark hatred towards Israel, and aren't concerned with helping the population in Gaza. There is any longer a humanitarian issue in Gaza; hundreds of trucks carrying food and supplies enter it every day."
He added that the IDF will work to prevent any attempt to break the naval blockade and noted that the UN chief made statements on the legality of the siege and the flotilla's illegality.
Gantz also addressed the issue of Gilad Shalit,
stressing that public discussion of how to free the captive soldier "is not right." He said that he met with Shalit's family a week after he became IDF chief, and promised them that he will do whatever it takes to bring back their son.
"The State of Israel is committed to making every effort to return the soldier Gilad Shalit home," he said.