Former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi spoke at a Bar Ilan University conference Wednesday and said that while in office, her failed in regards to securing the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Ashkenazi, who was given an honorary doctorate by the university, said: "We have to admit that we do not have the ability to use military force to free Gilad. My biggest fantasy was to see a helicopter land at Erez crossing, with Gilad in it, and calling his parents to tell them we got him back.
"Hamas has Shalit hidden in such a way that we cannot locate him. We don’t know where he is. If we fail to manufacture a military option for his release, we have to admit it and pay a reasonable price for his return."
Turning his attention to Iran, Ashkenazi said he believes "we must continue to promote the possibility of a military option… Israel cannot abide Iran possessing nuclear weapons.
It is the possibility of a strike on Iran that is motivating the international community to impose economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic. "Such action has brought about the suspension of Iran's nuclear program in 2003," he said.
"The Middle East's agenda is being dictated by two non-Arab countries – Iran and Turkey. Without Iran's support, Hamas and Hezbollah would not be what they are today, so the IDF must be prepared for the Iranian challenge.
"Naturally, the price of military action will be great, but we have to spare no effort in preventing a nuclear Iran."
On the events of 'Nakba Day' and the possibility of mass marches on Israel's borders, the former IDF chief said that while such a thing will pose a problem, it also should not be exaggerated: "In order to confront civilians storming the fences, we have to form a police-like force. It is unwise to have military vis-à-vis civilians."
Dr. Ashkenazi (Photo: Yoni Reif)
The greatest challenge the IDF faces now, he said, is Hezbollah. "Despite the criticism against the Second Lebanon War, deterrence has increased in its wake…. Still, if Hezbollah wanted to, they could fire a massive amount of rockets at nearly any point on Israel's map – but they could never take Galilee, any more than Hamas could take the Negev.
"That is why we have to form tactics that will render it impossible for them to fire missiles and shorten war to a minimum."
Ashkenazi also expressed his concern over the drafting situation, saying the drop in enlistment numbers was discontenting. He did, however negate the idea of turning the IDF into a professional army, for both financial and human capital reasons.
Ashkenazi suggested making National Service Mandatory for everyone, Israeli-Arabs included.
Gilad Shalit's father, Noam Shalit, told Ynet that he was not surprised by Ashkenazi's statements about the whereabouts of his son.
"He told us the same thing when he was still in uniform," Shalit said. "Unlike other people in the defense establishment who recently left their positions and admitted they failed in returning Gilad, Ashkenazi was one of those willing to take responsibility for the other solution – releasing terrorists in exchange for Gilad."
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