Bennett: Iran leaving Syria, but could come back if Israel let's up

Outgoing Defense Minister Naftali Bennett holds ceremony to mark turnover of ministry to Benny Gantz.

Gary Willig ,

Bennett and Gantz
Bennett and Gantz
Oded Karni / GPO

The defense minister exchange ceremony was held Monday evening at the Kirya in Tel Aviv as outgoing Defense Minister Naftali Bennett stepped down for incoming Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

In a joint decision, the ministers concluded that the exchange ceremony will be conducted in a modest and limited format, with no honor guard and orchestra, attended by the chief of staff, the head of the Mossad, and the management of the Ministry of Defense.

During the ceremony, Bennett stated that Iran is leaving Syria, but those gains could be reversed if Israel lets up on the pressure against the Iranian presence in Syria.

"We must not let up on Iran for a moment. We have proven that if you focus on hitting the octopus on its head you can push it back. You have to attack and put it on the defensive. If we let go of the pressure on our enemy - everything can be turned around," Bennett said.

Bennett thanked the senior defense officials for their service and support. First of all, I would like to thank my friend, Chief of Staff Major General Aviv Kochavi. We have merited to have a serious, smart, dedicated, creative, and Zionist commander in all of aspects. The champions of the General Staff and all the officers I met are dedicated and energetic people who dedicate their lives to the highest cause of all - the Jewish state of Israel. A big thank you also to the Director General of the Ministry of Defense Udi Adam, who has great experience and great heart. I wish you success later in your journey. I would also like to thank all the Ministry of Defense staff, and my dedicated bureau staff, who I was privileged to work with. And my biggest thanks, to Gilat, my wife and my friend, And to my kids Yoni, Michal, Abigail and David, who are the rock of my life."

Turning to the incoming Dfense Minister, Bennett said: "Benny, I pass on to you the baton at a time when the state of Israel is in a good, stable, perhaps quiet, security state, and Iran is in the process of withdrawing from Syria. But if we let go of our pressure even for a moment, it could all be reversed at once. Since the beginning of the year, and thanks to the ongoing efforts of the IDF and the security establishment, no Israeli civilians have been killed by terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, last week we lost the late Golani Amit Ben Yigal in action in Kfar Ya'av. In recent months, one single rocket has been fired from Gaza, and not a single incendiary or arson balloon has been launched."

"In the north, upon my entering the post, we have set a key and essential goal: to remove Iran from Syria. No more stopping the consolidation, or pursuing one or the other, but removing the Iranian octopus arm. We have clearly told the Iranians: 'Get out of Syria. You have nothing to look for here. Syria will become a Vietnamese mud where they will be based, paying a growing price for blood and treasure.' For them it is a terrorist adventure 1000 miles from home, and for us it is our children's lives.

"The actions have brought results: Iran has significantly reduced the scope of its forces in Syria, and is even clearing a number of bases. Iran has begun a process of withdrawal from Syria, but the task must be completed. This is within reach. I am convinced, Benny, that you will complete this task," Bennett stated.

incoming Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he intends to lead multi-year programs to the IDF and the security system that will enable them to deal with present threats and future challenges.

Gantz also addressed the security challenges facing the State of Israel, declaring, "We will protect Israeli citizens from distant and imminent threats, locate them, identify them and destroy them."

Addressing the Trump Administration's peace plan, Gantz said: "As someone who is also active in the political dimension, I am committed to doing everything possible to advance political arrangements and strive for peace - peace has been and remains, an important Zionist goal. We will advance the peace program of the US government and President Trump. Responsible and important political measures require a strong security system, capable of assessing and preparing for the strategic reality facing the State of Israel, which has the attentive ear of the decision makers and is connected to them. We have that, and it will continue to be that way."

The minister concluded his remarks and referred to the newly formed government: "The strength of Israeli society is measured not only by its iron fist, but also by the readiness of all its components to fight, the strength of the home front, and the strength of the entire society. I look to Israeli society today. These are the days of undermining trust in government institutions. One of the reasons for establishing the current government as far as I am concerned is the harsh sense of trying to ignite - G-d forbid - to approach and win a civil war. I have won battles, I have fought in wars. This war I do not want to win, this war I must prevent."