Watch Chief of Staff Gantz’s Address at the BESA Center

By October 9, 2013

Read text of Chief of Staff’s speech (in Hebrew)

Gantz: Future war could begin with missile on IDF General Staff headquarters

(Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post, October 8, 2013)

IDF chief warns coming years will see growing coordination and affiliation among terror organizations on Israel’s borders.


A future war can begin with an attack by enemy missiles on IDF General Staff headquarters in Tel Aviv, or a cyber attack on Israel’s traffic light system, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Center’s conference, called Israel’s Perils and Prospects, held at Bar-Ilan University, Gantz began by noting the massive instability rocking the region, which he said “guides us every morning when we in the IDF wake up.”

“It becomes even more dramatic when examined through a geopolitical lens,” Gantz said.

Egypt has seen two presidents overthrown in less than three years, while Gaza, which obtained its “terrorist oxygen” from tunnels and arms smuggling, is now “facing doors it did not think would close before it, and is forced to develop new creative directions it did not require in the past,” Gantz said.

“Instability on a daily basis is a part of the daily routine of every commander in every sector today,” he continued.

“We cannot commit to knowing ahead of time how today [or any other day] will end,” he said.

On any given day, strategic weapons could fall into the wrong hands, a bomb tunnel leading to the entrance of an Israeli community can be exposed, or a border patrol can come under a bomb attack.
A future chief of staff will face an enemy with more advanced capabilities, which is more decentralized, camouflaged and embedded into the civilian population.

“In a future war, conflict could begin with an accurate missile attack on the IDF General Staff building in the heart of Tel Aviv, or a cyber-attack on a website providing daily services to Israel – traffic lights could cease to work, or banks could be taken out of action. A bomb tunnel leading to the collapse of a kindergarten or mass storming of a community near a border” could be triggers too, Gantz said.

“Let’s discuss a patrol moving along a border road on the Golan Heights, and it drives over an explosive. An anti-tank missile is fired immediately afterwards at a second patrol that arrives to provide assistance, hitting it too.

The future chief of staff will hear of three kidnapped soldiers, one of them perhaps a battalion commander who arrived first on the scene… a global jihad organization could take responsibility,” Gantz stated.

Noting that past wars began this way, Gantz said a new front would be affected in this scenario – the Golan Heights. “By its act, the [terror] organization can activate all of the borders for an immediate multiple-arena war,” he said.

As a result of an Israeli response, Hezbollah could begin firing missile barrages at Galilee communities, and simultaneously, Hezbollah attack cells try to infiltrate the Golan Heights, according to Gantz’s scenario. “If Hezbollah decides to hit a pinpoint target, almost anywhere in Israeli territory, it will know how to do so. Similar barrages will be fired at Eilat by an organization acting in tandem with Hezbollah, or anyone who chooses to ‘join the celebration. Simultaneously, hundreds of Hamas members will make their way to the Erez border crossing or the Northern Gaza Brigade. Does this sound imaginary? I don’t think so,” Gantz said.

The coming years will see growing coordination and affiliation among terror organizations on the borders. “This reality will confront us with multiple-arena scenarios that are very realistic, though different from what’s we’ve known in the past,” Gantz said.

Adding to the challenge is the fact that “every deviation in the Israeli response involving civilians, even if they’re not necessarily innocent, will trigger delegitimization steps, petitions to international law courts in real-time, demonstrations around the world and the involvement of the international community, from the start of the incidents.”

In fact, all of these threats are in effect today, the chief of staff noted. “The pastoral scenery of the Golan Heights, awash with basalt and flowing streams, can change in a momentary bang to a battlefield of blood, fire, and plumes of smoke,” he warned.

In planning the IDF’s response, Gantz said every commander, from the company commander to the chief of staff, must act with determination and with full force in order to first of all give an appropriate operational reply to the threat he encounters.

“From the moment a war breaks out, by [Israel’s] initiative or if it is forced on Israel, a sand clock is turned over. Israel pays in blood for every hour that the routine life is damaged… every commander… will have to know how to activate the range of tools in as short a period of time to move from peacetime to war,” he said.

“In Lebanon today, there are homes in which there are guesthouses alongside missile houses. This is a clear intelligence reality,” he added.

In the operations room of the General Staff at the underground floor of the Kirya, the chief of staff will receive a broad picture of the whole war, in space, the air, sea, land, underground, and the cyber world.

He’ll be able to follow the war at any resolution he sees fit, viewing the changing picture of the IDF’s targets, and changes in the enemy’s activities.

In preparing for the challenge, the IDF must aim for a quick defeat, using strong intelligence, army divisions with specialty knowledge in their areas of operations, and network-centered warfare, said Gantz.

“The pilot will know how to talk to the platoon commander, as they look at same target. A navy boat can monitor a target that evaded the eyes of artillery gunner on the border, but which is in clear scope of a drone. In the vision we developed, the IDF will be network-based, with accurate missile fire and autonomous cannons, with plane missile, tank and infantry [working in tandem].
These will be joined by swarms of autonomous vehicles, robots and drones, at sea and maybe even land, interconnected, relying on micro and nano-technology. None of these detract from the importance of the ground maneuver as a significant and influential component,” Gantz said. He noted that missile defenses and the Home Front Command would also be crucial.

He concluded by saying, “I’m telling you about a day of war in the life of a future chief of staff, but actually, this could be the morning I wake up to myself as chief of staff tomorrow.