Bennett: ‘Get ready for Gaza or Lebanon clash’

Premier warns that defense establishment anticipating flare-up with Hezbollah or Hamas, and that Jewish State won’t be bound by terms of potential Iran nuclear agreement.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

In his first appearance in front of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee since taking office, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned lawmakers to prepare themselves for an upcoming military escalation with either Lebanon or Gaza.

According to Hebrew language media, Bennett said in the closed-door portion of the meeting that despite Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s recent overtures to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, peace with the Palestinians is not on the horizon.

Rather, Bennett said, Israel’s defense establishment is expecting a flare-up with Gaza-based terror group Hamas, or the Hezbollah terror group in southern Lebanon, which enjoys generous support from Iran.

The premier said that whether or not the Islamic Republic and the West come to an agreement which would see Iran reenter the 2015 nuclear deal is irrelevant to the Jewish State.

Rather, Bennett emphasized that Israel would not feel encumbered by the agreement when it comes to mitigating the threat posed by Iran.

“In terms of the Vienna talks, the nuclear talks… Israel is not part of the agreements, Israel is not bound by what is written in the agreements if they are signed, and Israel will continue to ensure its full freedom of operation in any place and at any time, with no limitations,” Bennett said.

The coalition has raised Israel’s defense budget to almost 60 billion shekels ($19.2 billion), much of which is to be set aside specifically for military actions against Iran.

“We are investing in security rearmament of the IDF and the entire defense establishment,” he said.

“I would say this was rearmament that we haven’t seen for years. This rearmament is important to our survival, and I am very glad about it and am determined to see it through quickly.”

Bennett criticized former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, blaming his predecessor for neglecting the military, which sent the institution into a “tailspin.”

The years of neglect, Bennett charged, “severely damaged Israeli national security, in every dimension.”