Lt. Gen. Gantz in action.
Lt. Gen. Gantz in action.Israel news photo: Flash 90

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz voiced hope in an interview published Thursday that Iranian leaders will decide to scrap their nuclear arms program of their own accord. He also said that the next war with Lebanon will knock the country back "by decades."

"We are more prepared than in the past, we are better than we were in the past, and we will do whatever the political echelon decides after this dialog [with Iran] is over," he said. "A nuclear Iran is not a question of ability, but rather one of decision. This is a global problem. Ultimately, the one who will decide to relinquish the nuclear program is Iran," the Chief of the Staff said in an interview to Halochem magazine, which is published by the IDF Disabled Veterans Organization.

"Iran is a great nation with tens of millions of residents, universities, economic and scientific capabilities; we can't take that away from them. I think that is a very rich culture that must decide, ultimately, that this is not the way," he added. "I think that ultimately, it will make the decision. The Iranian leadership will decide that the price of sticking with its [nuclear] program is more than it is willing to pay."

Lt. Gen. Gantz also discussed the northern border and called the situation in Syria "acute," stating that "the central government is fading, losing power… It is difficult to paint a picture of how the Syria of the future will look. We are closely tracking developments and are prepared for any possible aggression from that direction."

Additionally, Gantz addressed the possibility of chemical weapons falling into the hands of the Hizbullah terror organization. "The danger of a loss of control [over the weapons] is great, but I would stay level-headed regarding this matter," he said, also warning of the risk of getting pulled into a complex conflict.

The Chief of Staff warned Hizbullah against trying to attack Israeli targets. "Today, the IDF is massively more prepared than in the past to carry out a large-scale, multi-dimensional offensive against Hizbullah," he said. "I would not recommend that it try our power. That would hurt it to the point that it would understand with whom it is playing with and with what it is gambling."

He added, "If I needed to choose to be an Israeli citizen or a resident of Lebanon, I would quickly choose to be an Israeli citizen, who will receive not only justice in war but also good protection. Lebanon would be knocked back by decades after the next war; I really would not try us."

Regarding recent developments in Egypt, the Chief of Staff explained, "That is a state with which we have a peace agreement, and most of the activity that the Egyptians carry out in Sinai, they do with [our] consent. I would not rush to eulogize our peace agreement or to give up on it. It is a strategic asset to both countries."

With regard to the Hamas terror organization's control of Gaza, Lt. Gen. Gantz did not rule out the possibility of an offensive to stop the persistent rocket attacks on southern Israel. "I think there will be another offensive campaign in Gaza," he said. "The State of Israel decided to disengage from Gaza and not to stay there, but that does not mean that we don't need to go back to visit – if and when there is a need."