Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz speaking at Herziliya Conference on Monday: IDF's capabilites have improved dramatically
Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz addressed the 13th annual Herzilya Conference on Monday (March 11), covering an expansive range of topics. The Chief of Staff focused on how the IDF deals with the specific threats in each of Israel's regional sectors as well has how it is preparing for the future.
"The possibility of war is not within sight, but the risk for escalation is very high. Every week there is an incident with the potential to end differently and ignite the entire region," The Chief of Staff warned, saying that IDF must take measures in the present, while simultaneously preparing for future eventualities. He added that the IDF is well prepared for every potential threat along all of Israel's borders.
Speaking about the threat of Hezbollah along Israel's northern border, the Chief of Staff pointed to the terror organization's evolving weapons capabilities as a strategic challenge that the IDF must deal with. "[Hezbollah] acts like a pseudo-state, posing strategic challenges which could ignite at any given moment. Lebanon cannot claim that it is a sovereign state without holding itself responsible for actions that take place within its territory," he said, while maintaining that Hezbollah is still deterred by the outcome of the Second Lebanon War – a war which dealt a crippling blow to its terror infrastructure.
Lt. Gen. Gantz emphasized the specific importance of the IDF's intelligence gathering capabilities in facing the transforming reality of urban warfare within densely populated areas. "We are not facing an organized army," he said, "so in order to win we will have to crawl underneath tunnels … and enter the villages from which the enemy operates." The Chief of Staff went on to explain that particularly in such complex warfare every piece of intelligence is crucial in saving civilian lives and avoiding collateral damage. "It will be difficult, but we are very much prepared for this scenario," he said.
Despite the complex challenges raised by fighting against terror organizations, the Chief of Staff maintained that the IDF's superior intelligence, technology and firepower will continue to grant it the upper hand long into the future. "Hezbollah does not have an air force like ours, and never will have one," he said. "Should the status quo change, we will act in a very decisive way against [them]," Lt. Gen. Gantz stated.
The Chief of Staff described the importance of analyzing the IDF's past in order to be best prepared for the future. "Not looking back is not a valid philosophy. One must always learn from his past, while also looking towards the future," he said, adding that drastic changes have occurred in recent years throughout the Middle East.
"This year we are marking forty years since the  Yom Kippur War; in the past forty years the battlefield has changed dramatically, particularly in the past two years," Lt. Gen. Gantz said. "The one thing that is certain is that nothing is certain," he said, adding that the 1973 was may have been Israel's last war against a conventional army.
Lt. Gen. Gantz noted that the IDF's capabilities have also evolved dramatically in the past forty years. "Today we can strike at targets in one day that in the past took whole wars to strike," he said.
The Herzliya Conference, hosted every year by the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya, is one of Israel's leading conferences for the articulation of national policy. The conference features Israeli and international leaders from the military, political and academic spheres as well as expert analysts in various fields.