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Monday, January 21, 2008

IDF Chief of Staff Ashkenazy at Herzliya Conference

About a year before the establishment of the State, Ben-Gurion held a long seminar in order to learn the challenges that would stand before the oncoming nation. He came to the understanding that the conflicts between the Jews and their neighbors would not be like those in the past. Ben-Gurion turned to the Hagana commanders and said, "I know that I say very difficult things, but in my heart my conclusions are even harder because the front is becoming more and more serious."
A current analysis from the last era provides a similar image to that which was seen by Ben-Gurion. The IDF must be prepared for any matter, and it is prepared and ready to defend the citizens of Israel, her sovereignty and her integrity. Only when these receive a proper response can there be a valid agreement. Today the IDF has to deal with armies that possess weapons of mass destruction, militias and strong and well established organizations.
 The threat against the home front increases and by doing so it becomes an integral part of the front. This is the result of a calculated effort by the enemy to bring the hinterland closer to the front.
 The development of rockets and Qassams is the direct result of the fact that every face to face conflict ends with IDF supremacy.
 The serene daily routine of most Israelis is not granted to the residents of Sderot and the settlements around the Gaza strip, but every night and day actions are taking place in order to minimize as much as possible the Qassam and rocket fire. Despite this, the response is not complete and IDF expends great resources to provide it.
I roam the field and I am attentive to our troops, to the way and the activity. As Chief of Staff I am both happy and proud to say that whoever has claimed that a generation is disappearing is wrong. Our soldiers are motivated by the righteousness of our way, great willingness to fight, and courage.
Residents of Sderot and the settlements surrounding Gaza, you strengthen us and we will do everything in order to restore the tranquility to your area. In the end the goal will be achieved. I promise to act responsibly and carefully.
Another process which is taking place in our region is Iran. The reality of a nuclear Iran is one which we can not tolerate. The Tefen Plan is one that forebodes [envisages?}  rebuilding and strengthening of IDF.
I am frequently asked, must we forever endure the sword? My answer is that in order to guarantee the State of Israel we must establish the IDF as a strong and advanced army, and in order to do so the IDF needs the backing of the Israeli society. The IDF's power and strength alone will ensure peace.
The IDF is the people's army. Each generation has contributed in turn and I believe that is still the mission of the generation, I know that there is no son who feels less committed than his grandfather, and I know they are driven by the will to contribute. Those who were awarded decorations during the war will be testimony to that. Those and the soldiers in the field, and pilots who watch over us from the sky and those who sit along-side the borders.
A concerning issue is the erosion in IDF enlistment. We need the people of Israel just as the people need the IDF. Especially now we are committed to fight for every enlisted man and woman, especially the combat bound. As part of this approach, more and more positions are becoming available to women as well as minorities and new immigrants. The maximal emphasis must be placed on every soldier. Even today the IDF constitutes for many the final junction for education and values.
The society must educate towards the service and I bless the public discourse which goes on today and encourages the enlistment into the IDF and rejects draft-dodging. Only with the help of the Israeli society can we return back to the origins. The society's recognition of its fighters will encourage them to walk proudly with their heads high bearing their beret in their shoulder strap.
The regular and reserve combat alignment are of great value. The reserve soldiers strengthen the military and we will continue to call upon them, to train them and properly prepare them. Together we will continue to assist those who are willing to leave their homes and schools and jobs. The late Ehud Ephraty, a fighter in the paratroopers who perished last October, had never once missed a day of reserve duty and is an example of true virtue.
We will continue to support the families of fallen soldiers; we will continue to be a warm shoulder to them and give support to our wounded, and we will continue to work towards the retrieval of our captive sons.

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