IDF Chief: Jerusalem is Why We're Here

As PM Olmert prepares to give away parts of Jerusalem, Chief of Staff Ashkenazi says army will act to ensure it remains Israel's eternal capital.

Hillel Fendel ,

Chief of Staff Ashkenazi
Chief of Staff Ashkenazi

At a ceremony honoring the 40th anniversary of the liberation and reunification of Jerusalem this week, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said that Jerusalem is the "raison d'etre" of our national existence in Israel.  Speaking on Tuesday night at Binyanei HaUmah Convention Center in Jerusalem, he said the IDF will do everything it can to ensure Jerusalem remains Israel's eternal capital.

"Jerusalem symbolizes the reason and purpose for our lives here," Ashkenazi told the IDF Civilian Pensioners Organization.  "It is the 'why' and 'wherefore' explaining why we are fighting.  We will continue to do whatever we can to ensure that Jerusalem will forever remain the capital of Israel.  And as the Prophet Isaiah said 2,700 years ago: 'On your ramparts, O Jerusalem, I have placed guards all day and all night.'"

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi (left) on a Wednesday visit to bases in southern Israel

In attendance were President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky, former Defense Ministers Moshe Arens and Yitzchak Mordechai, former Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon, and other dignitaries.

Praise for Young Soldiers
Despite recently released figures showing that 28% of Israel's youth does not serve in the army, Gen. Ashkenazi praised the spirit that leads many young men and women to serve in the army: "The IDF is a people's army that recruits youths from all parts of the country.  At the same time, we are happy to see that many view their army service not only as an obligation, but chiefly as a national mission.  This is even more true for those who have chosen to dedicate to the army their best years and energies, for long years of service in the Israel Defense Forces, out of a deep and straightforward sense that this is what is necessary and right to do in order to ensure the existence and security of the State of Israel."

Ashkenazi, who took up his position as Chief of the IDF General Staff early this year, recently conducted a surprise visit to a paratroopers base - and remained there, with 90 officers from the General Staff's Supervisory and Control Division, for ten full hours. He and his officers reportedly reviewed nearly every aspect of the base, including equipment, plans, soldiers' knowledge of the plans, vehicle readiness, and more.