IDF chief says calls to intensify response to Gaza rockets 'irresponsible'
MENAHEM KAHANA (AFP/File)
The Israel Defense Force (IDF) chief-of-staff Gadi Eisenkot on Tuesday slammed as “irresponsible” calls for the army to intensify its response to recent rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
Speaking at a conference titled “The IDF an Israeli Society” at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in the central city of Herzliya, Eisenkot said that the military is seeking to avoid being “dragged” into a new conflict with the Strip sparked by rogue salafist groups in the Hamas-run enclave.
“Statements I’m hearing and the pressure to use full strength against every rocket is, in my view, irresponsible. I don’t think that it’s the correct thing to do at this moment. At the same time, we can’t accept the firing, not of a single rocket on an open field, and certainly not on a residential center,” Eisenkot said.
At least 18 rockets have been fired at Israel since US President Trump’s highly-contested decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital of the country on December 6.
While a number of rockets have been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, several have landed in the populated areas of Sderot and south of Ashkelon.
Overnight Tuesday, one such rocket fired from the Gaza Strip exploded in an open area in southern Israel prompting retaliatory airstrikes.
Eisenkot said that attacks were also being prompted by the IDF’s construction of an underground anti-tunnel barrier around the Strip.
“We’ve destroyed many tunnels and we will continue to destroy them, resulting in the deaths of terrorists, something that has encouraged terrorist groups, especially [salafist] ones, to carry out attacks,” he said.
Eisenkot said that while tensions with Gaza were high, the more immediate threats facing Israel at the moment included Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the encroachment of Iran-backed militias along the border in Syria, terrorist activities in the West Bank, and the Islamic State affiliate waging an insurgency against Egyptian forces in the Sinai Peninsula.
Iran, of course, was pegged as the ultimate threat with Eisenkot noting the Islamic Republic’s involvement in the majority of Israel’s most immediate threats.
Eisenkot also spoke of deep divisions within Israeli society which were negatively affecting the military’s operations and ability to remain an apolitical institution.
The army chief said that while IDF officers may disagree with government policy, it is the duty of the military to fulfil orders handed down to them from the political echelon.
“As someone who has served for 40 years in the IDF, I can’t imagine officers refusing an order because of policy. They understand their role and their subordination to the political echelon,” Eisenkot said.
Eisenkot also denounced a letter sent to him by dozens of twelfth-grade students who declared their intention to snub the army’s mandatory draft and “not to participate in the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people."
Eisenkot said that “the IDF didn’t ask to oversee the West Bank, that was a mission given to us by the political echelon” and urged the conscientious objectors to carry out their service in order to influence the values and effect change from within the institution itself.
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