Israel’s next army chief ‘would only strike Iran as last resort’

The Times of Israel — Nov 28, 2014

Gen Eizenkot (2nd from left) raises a toast with fellow commanders. Click to enlarge

Gen Eizenkot (2nd from left) raises a toast with fellow commanders. Click to enlarge

Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, named Friday night as the next IDF chief of the General Staff, firmly opposes Israeli military intervention to thwart Iran’s nuclear program unless Iran poses an immediate existential threat to Israel, an Israeli television report said.

Eizenkot, the current deputy chief, holds to the view that Israel should not strike at Iran “unless the sword is at our throat,” Channel 10 reported. That phrase was first used in the Iranian context almost four years ago by Israel’s former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, and Dagan subsequently declared that the idea of an Israeli Air Force attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities was “the stupidest thing I have ever heard” and that anyone seriously considering any such strike needed to internalize that he would be “dragging Israel into a regional war that it would not know how to get out of. The security challenge would become unbearable.”

Eizenkot subscribes to the assessment that Israel must only act against Iran as a last resort, “as do all of Israel’s security chiefs,” the Channel 10 report said, referring to the outgoing chief of General Staff Benny Gantz, current Mossad chief Tamar Pardo, and Shin Bet domestic security chief Yoram Cohen.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vowed that Israel will “stand alone” to stop Iran if necessary, has publicly fumed as world powers negotiated intensively with Iran in recent months, and has demanded the dismantling of Iran’s entire “military nuclear” capability.

The prime minister delayed naming Eizenkot as Gantz’s successor for the past two weeks, the TV report said, in part because he toyed with the idea of finding a candidate with an outlook less similar to that of Gantz.

Netanyahu partly blames Gantz for the sense that Israel emerged “with a tie” from the summer’s 50-day war with Gaza’s Hamas rulers, and looked around for a top officer to succeed Gantz “with more of a knife between his teeth.”

Eizenkot, the report said, is a “moderate” like Gantz, who wants to keep any wars Israel has to fight as short as possible, and aims not to enter conflicts without a clear exit strategy.

Eizenkot was the clear choice as next army chief of both Gantz and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and ultimately Netanyahu decided not to antagonize Ya’alon, and to go ahead with the appointment, which will be formalized in the next few days. He is set to take up the post on February 15.

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