The Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of Staff Wednesday gave a stark outlook for his country and the Middle East, saying “every single point in the state of Israel is under missile threat.”
Speaking to an audience of journalists and policymakers at the Herzliya Conference, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz echoed policymaker assessments in the U.S. - most recently Defense Secretary Leon Panetta – that Iran has the ability to construct a nuclear device within a year. He said:
“Iran is a global problem, a regional problem and a problem for Israel. Iran wants to solidify its regime by creating a nuclear deterrent.”
He emphasized the stakes couldn’t be higher for Israel:
“We cannot forget one basic thing: Israel is the only state in the world that someone is calling for its destruction and is building the tools in which to do it. That is not something that can be ignored.”
Gantz said it’s very important to build impressive military capabilities and be willing to employ them if needed, but at the same time, he said, “Sanctions are beginning to show the first signs of progress regarding what is happening inside Iran,” adding the Islamic regime's nuclear project needs to be further disrupted and supervision needs to be tightened.
Closer to home, Gantz outlined the threats from Hamas and Hezbollah which possess:
“extraordinary munitions power that can hit every single point in the State of Israel…every single point in the State of Israel is under missile threat…Gaza and Lebanon are the two largest munitions arsenals that I’ve ever seen. Hezbollah and Hamas, fed by Syria, Iran and even by Russia I’m sorry to say that’s continuing sending arms to Syria…”
And with President Bashar Assad facing a full-blown insurgency, nobody knows who will end up controlling Syria and its weapons.
“The Middle East is the most arming place in the world and the even worse news is that we are the target of those munitions, and we need to take care of that matter.”
This assessment comes as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that he is interested in more than doubling Iran’s defense budget. Bloomberg reports that lawmakers have to review the budget. If approved it would then go to the Council of Guardians, which has the power to veto legislation.
Watch an excerpt of Gantz's speech here: