"Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel," former IDF Chief Dan Halutz said Friday. Halutz spoke at a strategy seminar held in Herzliya.
"Iran poses a serious threat to Israel, but there is difference between 'serious' and 'existential,'" he said. Halutz' current position on the matter stands in stark contrast to the one he held when he served as the chief of staff.
"We may find ourselves facing an existential threat if Iran continues to pursue its nuclear ambitions… it's the only existential threat I can perceive for Israel," he said in 2006.
In October of 2006 he reiterated his position, saying: "(Israel) cannot remain indifferent to Iran, it has a combination of radical ideology with an intense desire to obtain nuclear weapons and the desire to destroy Israel."
Six year later and Halutz now sports a more moderate position: "I don't think there's room for any doomsday scenarios or comparisons with the Holocaust. I also don't think Israel should be the one to lead any operation against Iran."
An existential threat, he explained "is defined as the other side's ability to obliterate us off the face of the earth. That doesn’t apply nor do I think it will.
"I don't think we should sit idly by, but I don't think Israel should be leading the issue – Israel should make sure it remains a high priority on the international agenda, but Iran is a global problem – not just Israel's problem. "
The public debate on the matter "has crossed the lines. Some things should have never been said," he added.
Halutz said that Israel was surprised by the Arab Spring: "We didn't imagine any of what happened over the past year… Still, I don't think we'll see democracies pop up in the Middle East very fast, especially in Egypt and Syria."
The latter, he added, does not pose an existential threat to Israel either: "A weak Syria is a Syria that weakens Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah-Hamas axis," he said.
"A weak Syria is one that weakens Turkey too, and we have to use these changes to our advantage, turn enemies to friends and vice versa – even if we have to swallow our pride every once in a while."
'Women's exclusion worse than terror'
Halutz also addressed the recent phenomenon of excluding women from the public sphere and called it: "Worse than any form of terrorist as it divides and weakens."
"We cannot have an army within an army; where every group has a different patron." He added that this created uncertainty over the correct chain of command and authority on a day to day basis. He believes that this situation is worse than "the war of Gog and Magog."
Halutz added that the situation was very challenging for the IDF: "It's divisive and it causes us to be weaker. Now it's the singer on the stage, tomorrow it's the female fighter pilot. What happens if the female pilot will have to fly with a yarmulke wearing pilot? We might reach a point where we have to exclude from there as well."
Halutz stressed that the question of the shared burden of service is not disconnected from the operational challenges. "The nature of wars of army versus army has changed right before our eyes. The battles are longer and exhausting and require patience. The places us with a major challenge that is becoming more and more difficult and complicated."
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