IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz
IDF Chief of Staff Benny GantzIsrael news photo: Flash 90

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz warned on Wednesday that a nuclear-armed Iran would be an existential threat to the State of Israel.

Speaking at a memorial ceremony for Major Eitan Belachsan, who was killed by Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon in 1999, Gantz said, “The Iranian nuclear development is an existential threat. Even though there is a crack between Tehran, Damascus and Beirut, Lebanon is being strengthened.”

Gantz also referred to the changes in the Middle East in light of the Arab Spring and said that “this is a very complex reality. The Middle East of 14 months ago is not today’s Middle East and is not necessarily the Middle East of 14 months from now.”

Commenting on the subject of Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt, Gantz said, “The peace treaty with Egypt is very important to us and we should make every effort to preserve it while at the same time keeping a close watch” on what is going on in Egypt.

The extremist Muslim Brotherhood, which clinched the majority in recent parliamentary elections in Egypt, threatened to cancel the peace treaty with Israel by putting the issue up for a referendum and letting Egyptians decide. Potential presidential candidate Amr Moussa later rejected the possibility that Egypt will cancel the peace treaty it signed with Israel in 1979.

Finally, the Chief of Staff addressed Tuesday’s decision by the Supreme Court that the ‘Tal Law’ for religious exemptions from the IDF is illegal.

“We need to find a way to integrate everyone in the army,” said Gantz. “Military service is mandatory in Israel and not a possible alternative. Everyone can and should serve - it is a necessity.”

He added, “The challenges in the Middle East have changed but what should not change is our commitment to ourselves and to our actions. The security challenges not the only ones in Israel, but they are valid - active, present and threatening.

“There is a continuing growing trend among those who join the army of people who want to do more, but at the same time there is also a decrease in the percentage of those who join the army,” said Gantz. “The reality in which the majority serves in the military may change and the State of Israel should be concerned about that reality.”