IDF chief: Hezbollah is Israel’s biggest military threat

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot listed the IDF’s challenges in the near future, chief among them the Hezbollah terror group and the current wave of Palestinian terror attacks.  

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News

Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon. (AP/Mohammed Zaatari)

IDF Chief of Staff Eisenkot stated Monday that Israel’s most formidable military threat is the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror organization, while saying that the nuclear deal with Iran presented new risks together with opportunities.

Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) annual conference in an address titled Threats, Challenges, and Opportunities Facing Israel, Lt. Gen. Eisenkot named several leading challenges for the IDF in the coming future.

Regarding the lifting of the sanctions on Iran, he said it presented “grave dangers but also opportunities.” Eisenkot did not specify what upsides he sees for Israel, but his remarks are unusual as Israeli authorities have greeted the deal with trepidation, and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen recently stated that the region has become more dangerous in wake of the accord with the Islamic Republic.

Eisenkot said the deal marks a strategic turning point for Israel. He estimated that Iran will try to keep its part of the deal in the coming years to reap the benefits of the lifting of sanctions, but that Tehran will also continue its aggression toward Israel through proxies, such as Hezbollah and Hamas in Gaza, which it supports.

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“The assessment is that as the economic situation improves in Iran, more assets will be diverted [to support terror groups operating against Israel],” he added. Iran has also been operating among Arabs with Israeli citizenship, he said.

In the long term, Iran has not abandoned its aspirations to develop nuclear weapons, and Israel should closely monitor developments in the country.

Hezbollah aspires to install a Shiite hegemony in Lebanon, but Israel’s threat to destroy Lebanon if Hezbollah attacks the Jewish State has been the main factor deterring Hezbollah from trying.

Regarding the wave of Palestinian terrorist attacks that have been plaguing Israelis for the past four months and have claimed the lives of 28 victims as of this writing, Eisenkot said that the IDF must work to preserve and strengthen the security and the sense of security in Judea and Samaria. “On the one hand, there is a need to combat terror in creative measures, while at the same time allowing the Palestinian population to maintain hope,” he said.

In the short term, the Palestinian threat remains “the most disturbing.” “Terrorism against us has concurred for a long time and will continue for a long time. You don’t need to be a strategist to know that,” Eisenkot said. “Our challenge is to decrease successful attacks by terrorists, and combat knife terrorism through the use of ruses.”

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The advent of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the Middle East has become the most influential factor in the region, and in that context Israel must be prepared to face ISIS militarily on a short notice.

AP contributed to this report.