IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz held a round of working meetings on Tuesday as part of a conference in Brussels attended by chiefs of staffs of NATO countries.
Israel, while not a NATO member, nonetheless maintains a presence at the alliance headquarters in Brussels and conducts joint defense drills with several NATO members.
Gantz discussed the security challenges facing Israel and the IDF with his counterparts, telling General Knud Bartels, who chairs the NATO military committee, "We are in a dramatically different reality than before, including new threats and an era of uncertainty and instability, requiring new thinking from all of us."
Later, Gantz spoke about regional threats and the importance of cooperation with NATO countries against the global terrorist threat, "In the year that has passed since our last meeting, the strategic situation in which both NATO and the IDF operate and plan has changed dramatically."
"In addition to the positive changes and new hopes raised in the Middle East and North Africa we face many dramatic new opportunities, as well as increased risks," Gantz cautioned.
"Our hope is that the changes in our region will lead to a stable Middle East; that the bilateral agreements with our neighbors will continue to be respected; and will lead to friendly relations and a better future for the region, and the world as a whole.
"At the same time, while hoping for the best we must plan for the worst. Large numbers of advanced weapons have yet to be secured. Many have already been smuggled across international borders and reached terrorist groups; those weapons are endangering the lives of many innocent civilians all across the globe.
"The current situation provides fertile ground for radical actors to spread their message of hate, to threaten our tranquility and to menace the daily order of our people," Gantz explained.
During his meetings Gantz also sought to promote greater military and strategic cooperation between NATO countries and Israel. "We believe that NATO's decision in Lisbon to upgrade its relationship with the partner nations is of great importance, for both sides. Israel is pleased with the process of implementing this policy."
"Any effective international strategy to deal with these threats must involve strengthening the moderates while weakening the radicals. Only by working together, using a mixture of hard and soft power, will we be able to deter and, over the long haul, overcome the radical actors," he added.
Gantz also addressed NATO's decision to adopt a missile defense shield saying it should not lead to complacency. "BMD capabilities must be the last line of defense only. The strategy of defense must begin far earlier by preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems."
Israel, despite having implemented the widely acclaimed Iron Dome missile defense system in 2011, is nonetheless faced with the prospect of a wide-scale ground incursion into Hamas-run Gaza if it wants to end the daily threat of rocket fire its southern communities face.
"The nature of the conflict is more complicated than in the past, given that, for those enemies, human life has no value, except to be taken," Gantz said. "They store lethal weapons and fire missiles from homes, schools and places of worship, greatly endangering the lives of the civilians living there. They attack innocent civilians in a deliberate attempt to tear our societies apart and strike fear into the hearts of every person."
Gantz concluded his speech with a quote from Pirkei Avoit - the Ethics of the Fathers - a Jewish ethical code which was written in Israel two thousand years ago. "Who is wise? One who learns from every man... Who is honorable? One who honors his fellow man"
"Despite the passage of the years, in these challenging times, this advice still remains highly relevant to our discussion here today and reflects the ongoing importance of the cooperation with NATO and dialogue with this forum," he said.