Halutz’s ‘work plan’ to keep us alive

By David Horovitz October 7, 2005

Four months into the job, an upbeat chief of general staff tells ‘The Jerusalem Post’ that Israel has never looked safer and terrorism can be defeated, but that too much of the region is still far from reconciled to the fact of our presence here

(With Arieh O’Sullivan and Margot Dudketvitch)

Dan Halutz sweeps his right hand across his cavernous, glitzy corner office, on the 14th floor of the IDF headquarters, to the wall-length window overlooking downtown Tel Aviv. ‘What a skyline,’ he exclaims.

His delight in the flourishing scene visible from his window, it becomes plain in the course of this extensive interview with The Jerusalem Post, mirrors his wider view of Israel as 5765 gives way to 5766: The way the 18th chief of General Staff sees it, our rebuilt nation has never been safer from annihilation than it is today.

The probability of all-out war is lower than at any time in the modern state’s 57-year history, he says. His IDF is proving that there is a military solution to terrorism. Why, he’s even willing to contemplate the possibility of reducing the length of military service.

It has been said that Halutz, whose worst vice may be his fondness for a cigarette, is a sucker for compliments. So here are a few. He’s quick-thinking, savvy, and smart enough not to walk too far into the potential minefields into which a long interview can easily lead the unwary. But he’s also prepared to speak his mind, as he does here about confronting terrorism, the challenge of a nuclear Iran and more.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said he chose Halutz to take over, in June, from Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya’alon because he was more confident that Halutz could do the job. Presumably the last IDF chief to have fought in the 1967 war (the former air force commander was drafted in 1966), it was Halutz who commanded the withdrawal from Gaza, and with very few mishaps. In fact the IDF even surprised itself with its own well-planned success – an achievement that means Halutz’s new-man-at-the-top honeymoon period is continuing, for now.

The Jerusalem Post: Do you feel a sense of relief now that disengagement is over?

Halutz: Relief is not the word I would use. But we certainly have a feeling that we received a mission and carried it out.

Relief will come when we reap the fruits of this mission. It’s just one mission along a long route. Until we reach the end of the road, where there is peace and tranquility, then the overall mission is incomplete.

Did you fear an internal revolt in the army, or a high number of refusers?

The word revolt is an exaggeration. But, yes, I had concerns that the scope of refusal would be larger than it was and the opposition would be tougher than it was.

Some opponents of disengagement claim that they could have fueled more opposition from within the army, but that the rabbis deliberately held back.

I don’t belittle even one bit their contribution to the fact that things turned out the way they did.

Even the opponents of the disengagement used a lot of common sense and acted responsibly. Not all, mind you, and we won’t forget those who wanted to go further.

Their claim is that, because they held back, Orthodox soldiers listened to your commands rather than rabbinical commands. Do you accept that?

Opposition to disengagement was not limited to the religious. There were also secular people who opposed it. But the religious soldiers faced a complex dilemma and each one made a personal choice. Some of them received help in this choice from their spiritual leadership, but most made a personal choice: to be part of the establishment and carry out the mission their commanders gave them.

Do you now plan to remake the relationship with the Hesder yeshivas?

This isn’t about me. This isn’t some conflict between Danny Halutz, the chief of General Staff, and someone else. This is an issue of social arrangements in Israel. From time to time we have to reexamine the arrangements Israeli society makes with itself.

The arrangements today should be preserved in principle, but we have to reexamine their details. And in some cases, some places, a very small number of places, we have to examine if we want to maintain these arrangements.

You said often that you would ‘settle accounts’ after disengagement.

I meant what I said and I am sticking to it. I am speaking of specific people. They don’t work for me, that’s true, but I don’t work for them either. We’ll have to sort this out.

If there are missions in Judea and Samaria, to dismantle settlements, are you confident that your army is capable of carrying them out – however sensitive they might be? Gaza, after all, in the Jewish narrative, is relatively marginal. If there is a similar mission in Judea and Samaria, are you 100 percent confident that the army will do it?

The day the State of Israel is incapable of carrying out the decisions of the government of Israel – and by the State of Israel I mean those elements charged with carrying out those decisions – will be a terrible day.

This is not an issue of confident or not confident. The army, the police, the security services, all have an obligation to try with all our might – not physical might; all our dedication – to carry out the decisions of Israel’s sovereign authority, so long of course as those decisions were approved legally and stand up to the scrutiny of the law. If we can’t manage to do that…

It would be the beginning of the end of Israeli democracy?

It would be terrible.

It doesn’t matter where a decision has to be carried out, or who is affected. The only thing that matters is that we be able to carry it out – despite all the difficulties and the empathy and sympathy and the apathy and all the other lovely words.

But if you are asking me specifically whether there will be more [Gaza-style] missions in Judea and Samaria, then my answer to that direct question is that I don’t know of any such decision. And since there is no such decision, I don’t give answers to hypothetical questions.

I know it is a hypothetical question, but it is central nonetheless. Does the chief of staff know for certain that, given its composition, the nature of its personnel, his army can carry out such a decision?

Why ask me? Maybe it will be a mission for the next chief of staff.

Well, the fact is that you’re not answering, robustly, ‘Of course I’m certain. There is sufficient discipline. Soldiers will…

I am certain of one thing. The Israel Defense Forces, wherever it receives a mission from the political echelon, will do everything it can to carry out this mission in the precise spirit of the decision. That’s something I am certain about – without any connection to where it will be carried out, who will be affected, when. That’s our ultimate obligation. We are the army of a state. So when the army gets a mission, whatever the reason, I’m certain of one thing: it will plan for it, gear up for it, and carry it out as needed.

Is the IDF and the defense establishment too reactive, preoccupied with micro-tactics, at the expense of the big picture, of strategic efforts to change reality?

The IDF will use all legitimate means at its disposal to provide maximum security for its citizens. I don’t intend to advise to freeze any of these tools [such as targeted strikes] because they are legitimate and used with common sense and without harming innocents and within the confines of morality and ethics.

Sometimes we make mistakes. And sometimes there were results we didn’t plan for. But between a mistake and not doing anything there is a great gap. We have to strive not to make mistakes, but we can’t not do anything.

As I see the whole picture, the State of Israel has the right to self-defense.

You’ve spoken about the possibility of a ‘disproportionate response’ to attacks emanating from Gaza now that we’ve pulled out?

In the past week, they fired Kassams for no reason. They had an accident (when explosions during a rally in Jabalya killed 19 people on September 23) and instead of telling their people what had happened, the lied and blamed Israel [and fired at Israel]. I think that our response was relatively harsh, but not as harsh as it could have been.

What kind of harsher response was contemplated?

Why speak of things that didn’t happen?

Do you think they got the message?

I hope that they will think twice from now on.

Are you concerned by what is unfolding in Gaza since the pullout?

I am very concerned by the anarchy. It doesn’t serve the interests of any of the sides, certainly not the Palestinians’. It must be clear to them that nothing positive will come out of a system of anarchy. We won’t be able to hold a dialogue with them.

Anarchy puts the Palestinian Authority in grave danger. And the anarchy today is a consequence of the PA’s unpreparedness to tackle the problem when it was small. They are still doing too little, but I hope it isn’t too late.

The PA has to prevent terror against Israel, by force if necessary. I don’t intend for them to ‘dance at both weddings:’ to get fair treatment from us and also to send terror against us.

PA officials say they lack the equipment, sometimes they even say they don’t have enough bullets.

These are excuses. We’ll tell them where the bullets are located.

If the PA is so weak, and Hamas is gaining control, will we talk to Hamas?

Hamas is a terrorist organization. Our memory is so short, but let me remind you that last week Hamas executed Sasson Nuriel. Just like al-Qaida – they took it straight out of the scripts in Iraq. Only they didn’t cut his head off with a sword, as the barbarians of al-Qaida do. They ‘just’ stabbed him to death with a knife.

That is Hamas, the Hamas that carried out the attack in Beersheba that injured two brave guards who prevented the murder of dozens of Jews [at the end of August]. This is the same Hamas which declared that it was accepting a sort of cessation of activities, a Hudna, but which has fired 40 Kassams at Sderot. Islamic Jihad fired five rockets.

We should not be misled by this Hamas. There are no righteous there according to my criteria.

Is there any benefit to the dialogue between IDF officers and those of the PA?

We are meeting with the recognized and accepted Palestinian Authority. And this level of coordination is better than nothing. It is not delivering the goods, but it’s better than nothing. Even holding a dialogue is beneficial in itself, as a base for possible better things to come. But we’re not satisfied with what we see in return. The Palestinians are doing too little. They can do more.

When you look ahead, what worries you about the threat from Gaza, and what about the dangers from Judea and Samaria?

What worries me would be if the Palestinian Authority is unable to enforce its will. Then we’re in for prolonged anarchy and internal conflicts, violent conflicts, and we’ve learned that when they fight each other, there are ricochets that fly in our direction.

But we must not back down on this because Gaza, in my view, is a kind of test for the PA. If they can’t supply the goods there, then where will they be able to? There, they have all the opportunities: the entire territory is in their hands; the security apparatuses are theirs. This is a kind of model for them to show that we have someone to talk to, that we can begin to think there’s someone to rely on. So, if it doesn’t work in Gaza, that poses a big question to overall nature of the relationship.

As for Judea and Samaria, people are always talking about terror ‘transferring’ to Judea and Samaria. Let’s get this straight: Judea and Samaria is the base of terrorism. All the suicide bombers came from Judea and Samaria, with only the two exceptions – in Ashdod and the Mike’s Place bar [bombing] in Tel Aviv.

Only because the IDF has been acting in the way it has, the level of terror from Judea and Samaria has declined. I also want to remind those who have forgotten that the first mortar shell was fired from Bethlehem at Gilo. We’ve forgotten that too. Before mortar shells had been fired in Gaza.

So let’s not be confused about where terror has been centered. It’s there – in Judea and Samaria. In Gaza, an additional, equivalent center sprung up. Judea and Samaria wasn’t Switzerland to Gaza’s Afghanistan. No.
So, when you look now at the threat from Judea and Samaria?

We’re [deployed] there. And we’ll do everything to ensure that terror not raise its head.

And a unilateral solution in the West Bank?

Ask the prime minister.

The head of operations and the head of military intelligence said the other day that unilateral actions are an option for the future as well.

They said things that are beyond their authority. Nobody asked for their opinion. It’s not the army’s job to recommend activities such as these, to recommend political steps, and certainly not via the newspapers or public lectures. I also imagine that what was reported was not exactly what was said.

It sounds like you’ve concluded that the Palestinian Authority will fail in Gaza?

Not at all. But they have to show determination.

Haven’t we made life harder for the PA by leaving Gaza unilaterally? I’m not talking about a philosophical argument, but rather the practical concern that the nature of our departure will embolden terror groups and thus lead to more attacks. After all, there isn’t a single Palestinian who thinks we left Gaza because of anything other than ‘resistance.’ Not one who sees it as a victory for his ‘moderation.’ Didn’t Israel undermine Abbas by handing perceived victory to terrorism?

Look, the relentless effort to convince the Palestinians that we left for other reasons is a waste of time. I’ll remind you that, on the other side, the Yom Kippur War is seen as their victory. The Egyptians think they won the Yom Kippur War. Nothing we can say will persuade them of the contrary. That’s their story.

Similarly, efforts to persuade the Palestinians that we left [Gaza] for our reasons are a waste. We didn’t leave out of weakness. If told to do so, we could have stayed in Gaza until the end of time.

Will this encourage or discourage terror? Terror never needed encouragement. It’s not a new phenomenon. Our memories sometimes play tricks on us. You’re young people; well, I remember terrorism from my youth. In the past it came from across the border – fedayoun crossing from Gaza, from Jordan.

But wasn’t terrorism being suppressed prior to the pullout? Weren’t we about to beat terrorism?

There hasn’t been a single year without a terrorist attack.

Compared to 2002, with 126 fatalities that March alone, weren’t we beating terror?

There was a drastic reduction, yes.

And won’t the pullout bring about a rise?

We’re still here. We haven’t left a vacuum. If they escalate terrorism, we’ll escalate our actions to counter terrorism. And in the end, we can reduce terrorism to almost zero. I’ll never say absolute zero, but close. And the fact is that in 2004, terrorism dropped to the lowest levels in four years. And the same in 2005.

And your assessment is that the Gaza pullout won’t undermine that trend?

It’s my assessment that the Gaza pullout won’t undermine our ability to maintain that trend. That’s not to say that the Gaza pullout won’t lead them to try to escalate terrorism. But it won’t harm our ability to counter it.

It was always said that the army could never prevail in the media when facing a civilian population. The Gaza pullout proved the contrary. Can you now transfer the empathy and sensitivity demonstrated in the Gaza pullout to the handling of the Palestinians?

When the Palestinians behave like settlers we’ll be as empathetic to them. I don’t recall a single settler coming at us with a bomber’s belt. By contrast, I know lots of Palestinians who try to do that every day. Just the other day, a Palestinian approached a roadblock in Judea and Samaria and tried to stab a soldier with a knife. So he shot him in the leg. If they weren’t doing what they are doing, we wouldn’t be doing what we do.

We can’t treat those Palestinians who seek to kill us like tourists from Denmark. They aren’t tourists. Those who want to kill us create a situation where all Palestinians are treated less well. Why? Because eventually you have to erect roadblocks and check them one at a time, because you are concerned that one of them, heaven forbid, will blow himself up. That causes everyone to suffer.

Honestly, if we could differentiate between terrorists and innocent, decent people who want to live their lives peaceably, well, then we’d solve a lot of the world’s problems, because that’s a worldwide problem not an Israeli one: the difficulty in distinguishing the terrorist from the ordinary citizen. The terrorist and the ordinary citizen wear the same clothes, generally behave the same way, except that the terrorist turns to terrorism – and requires you to treat an entire community in a different way from that which you would like to treat it.

If only we could be equally sensitive to all. But what kind of a risk would that carry? And are we prepared to pay that price, here, in civilian Israel? And my answer is no. We have a growing obligation to provide security for the people of Israel. So you can be more sensitive there, but then you are less sensitive here.

We’ve been acting intensively for five years against terrorists in Judea and Samaria. But there are still terror cells active in Nablus, Tulkarm… Many successful operations and a much reduced level of terror but still they are active, still trying all the time to carry out acts of terror. We haven’t wiped it out completely.

Indeed, we haven’t completely wiped it out. Because we are humane. We will not carry out such forceful actions as to… We will do everything that is permissible, legitimate. That’s what we are doing. And the scope of terrorism has been drastically reduced.

The year 2005, touch wood, if you measure by any parameter – Palestinian casualties, Israeli casualties, suicide bombings, overall incidents – is utterly different from 2004. And 2004 was utterly different from 2003 and so on. That’s a consequence of our activities, not because they don’t want to carry out terrorism.

Last week alone we arrested 400 terrorists. Four hundred. Four hundred! Four hundred!! In Judea and Samaria. Two hundred Hamas men. A hundred and something from Islamic Jihad. And there are more. This is a Sisyphean task.

Not a great analogy?

We’re rolling the stone up the mountain. Rolling. And if it falls a little, we push, and we push. And in the end we will defeat this problem. Not solely militarily. But also militarily. Also militarily.

Is your opinion that terror can be reduced to near zero, but absolute zero requires a political solution?

No, I won’t say that. The army can reduce terror to very close to zero.

So the army can beat terrorism, in short?

In contrast to the theory that the army cannot exterminate terrorism, I believe the army can reduce terrorism to the very lowest level.

Look, there’s nothing in life that can be brought to absolute zero. You can take a cup and reduce it to shards. So there’s no glass. That doesn’t apply with people. We can’t get every last potential suicide bomber, not all the ones who don’t hold up flags and say ‘I’m a bomber,’ not all the ones who are not members of any terror group and who out of the blue sky one day have something happen in their brains that determines they’ll be bombers. We won’t always be able to get every last one of them. But the great mass of the terrorists: Yes. And the army has proved it – that’s it’s possible to overcome terror.

So what do you say of those who argue that we must have a diplomatic solution, that otherwise there’s no answer to this terrorism?

I won’t deal with the diplomatic issue. If I start telling the political echelons that we have to have a diplomatic solution, I’m not doing my job. The army’s job is to give the political echelon the maximal margin of maneuver. Not to say: ‘If you don’t reach a deal, I can’t supply the goods.’ We will make the maximal effort so that the political echelon has the maximal room for maneuver. That’s my task. It’s not my task to come each morning and say, ‘Listen, make a deal, otherwise we can’t… Of course not.

I’m convinced that I can provide a wide margin of maneuver for the political echelon. And if I can’t, I have to build it. And to think each day about how to ensure maximal room for maneuver for the political echelon – the highest number of rungs on the ladder – to go up and come down, according to their choices. Not a one-rung ladder, or two.

I know of this thesis: That the army can’t [beat terror]. There are examples worldwide where the army did beat terror. In Malaysia, for instance, at the time of the British [half a century ago]. They exterminated terrorism. Never mind that in the end they left and went back to Britain. They beat terrorism.

And in my opinion the Irish, in Ireland, understood…

The latest political developments there came as a consequence of the failure of terrorism?

That it was deadlock.

And we can aspire to that?

I think we can get to that situation. By the way, in both those cases it was the British. They know how to fight suicide bombers. A bullet in the head without asking questions. You just saw it. [An apparent reference to the shooting dead of a terror suspect, who turned out to be innocent, at the time of the summer's London bombings].

That was someone who wasn’t involved.

Yes. That is apropos.

The army’s spokeswoman, who is sitting in on the interview, adds: ‘And the media there was very quiet about it.’

Halutz laughs and says: Quiet, indeed.

Siding with the establishment, not like here?

(Laughs): I didn’t say that and I didn’t even ask for that.

The Palestinians apart, there are other threats to Israel – most especially the Iranians. What margin of maneuverability are you providing to the government where Iran is concerned?

Iran is not an Israeli problem. Iran is a global problem. Now, we Jews are always the first to jump up. But we don’t always have to stand and say here we are, at the front of the stage. We’re not.

There’s an EU effort, backed by the Americans, to find a diplomatic solution and I think it is a welcome effort and I hope it succeeds. If it doesn’t succeed, additional possibilities will have to be weighed – here too, yes. That’s the army’s job. What did Clausewitz say? The army is diplomacy by other means.

The army has to facilitate maximal room for maneuver. Sometimes that’s not possible. Sometimes it’s a binary solution: Zero or one. Sometimes it’s an analogic solution: a range of solutions from the easy to the hard.

I’d like to believe that the international arena will continue to lead the dialogue vis-a-vis the Iranians and not us. We are part of the international arena, but not the only ones there. Not the first ones there.

But in the end, the end, the end, we will not be anybody’s hostages. The Jewish people are done with being hostage to anyone.

Is the burden of facing the Iranian nuclear threat overwhelming for the army?

There is no nuclear Iran yet. And until there is, there isn’t. When there is, there is. So until then, it’s a theoretical discussion. When there is [a nuclear Iran], it’ll be a practical discussion. If…

In 1981, nobody believed Israel had an option [for stopping Iraq's nuclear program]. We found an option [with the air force bombing of Osiraq]. Today, too, the assessment is that there is no option: too many sites, they can rebuild, they have the raw materials to start over… But do we have a potential option, should we need one?

No comment.

We are not reconciled to a nuclear Iran, we don’t think we can live with that: Yes or no?

We think we can live.

Let’s hope so.

You hope. For me it’s my work plan.

Let’s talk about the changes you want to make in the army. There’s improved technology. Improved computing. A reduced threat of conventional war. Maybe you can conceive of cutting the defense budget. Invest in confronting terrorism and Iran. Maybe we’ll see a demand from the public to downsize the army. Do you expect that?

We’re the only place in the world that sells the same goods ten times over. We’ve sold the fact that there is no Iraq threat five times in the budget debates. The fact that there is peace with Egypt we’ve sold 27 times. The fact that there is peace with Jordan we’ve sold for 11 years in the budget debates. The fact that Syria is Syria… There is a limit to how often you can sell the same goods.

We haven’t yet paid the price of Iran building a nuclear capability and that world terror is growing. I am not going to hold a budgetary debate here with you, but one thing I will say is that should the people of Israel ask to cut the defense budget one more time, it would be appropriate that the people of Israel get all the details of the defense budget. If so, the result will be that they demand an increase in the defense budget.

Still, if you’re asking me a question like that, I’m worried. Those who know the defense budget should know that the sums allocated to the army reflect the most efficient army in the world. There’s not an army anywhere that provides more security per shekel than we do. We should get a prize each year for the way we run our budget. It’s inappropriate that there be renewed debate each year on whether we can cut the budget. Anyone who calls for defense cuts is a demagogue who doesn’t know the facts.

Remember that there’s a direct connection between security and economic power.

When security is good, people invest.

The entire economy is built on expectations. When you feel that things are going to be safe, you spend, you invest, you fuel the economy. We all saw what kind of economy there was here amid the terror of 2002. Security brings tourism. Tourism brings income, and so on. And if there’s no security, there’s no economy. I don’t want to say that if there’s no security there’ll be no state, but the economy gets hit hard when security is undermined. So you can’t speak all the time about the defense budget, period.

Furthermore, when the economy is strong, and gross domestic product is rising, you can also invest in security. Now I am not saying that defense spending has to rise as GDP rises in Israel, but I do say that there’s been enough of this talk about the defense budget being big. By what measure is it big? By the barometer of the problems we face? By the measure of the activity that the army carries out, morning till night, every day?

You might find a little island [of defense spending] here and there that is not efficient. Okay, we are dealing with that. But that doesn’t save billions.

Are you thinking of reducing service to two-and-a-half years?

If it is possible I’ll be the first to cut service. It is a question of what is possible.

First, what is the critical mass that we need at any moment? How many people do we need in the army to ensure that this apparatus is prepared for a moment of immense emergency?

Second, how many people do we need to carry out the daily security missions?

Third, we need to distinguish between the fighting apparatus and its support apparatus – between the fighting apparatus and the areas where there is an alternative, sometimes a civilian alternative.

And fourth, remember that we want to maintain an egalitarian society, where everybody who joins the army serves for the same amount of time – everyone, no matter where he came from and where he is going in the army.

In the fighting apparatus we can’t shorten service too much and so we have to find solutions: How to cut back for others but not to restrict the fighters?

But you do believe in the principle of a people’s army?

One hundred percent.

You’re not looking for a professional army?

A people’s army is still a professional army. It is not a volunteer army. The standing army is a volunteer army. The State of Israel requires conscription, certainly for the foreseeable future.

I don’t want the army to become a last choice option for Israelis; that they go only if there’s no other choice. That’s what you’d have in a volunteer army, apart from those, like our volunteers today, who think that the army is a value they want to be a part of. Most of our standing army are serving out of choice.

If the army were to become the last choice, we’d find that our army is not of high enough quality and I want our army to be a quality army. This is not my private business. I’m in charge of this national interest for a very limited period. In the end I’ll have to hand it on to somebody else. I received a very high quality army and that is what I want to hand on to my successor because I think the State of Israel needs a strong army all the time, so that no one is tempted to check that we’re truly strong.

But at the same time we don’t hear you saying that you want more soldier-teachers or more Nahal or more soldiers to help the farmers. Has that era ended?

Some of those are not army missions. Maybe the time has come to look at the civilian tasks or the semi-civilian tasks that the army carries out and transfer them to the civilian echelon.

I look out of the window here, at the view from the 14th floor. Look what we’ve managed to do here in 57 years – despite the defense budget and despite the wars and despite all the problems. You won’t find a skyline like this almost anywhere else in the world.

You say that you don’t want anybody to be tempted to check that we’re capable of defending ourselves. How do you assess the likelihood of all-out war?

Lower at this time, in a significant way.

Lower than at any time in Israel’s history?

Yes. Lower than ever before, but not zero. Look, when you have a faade of strength, they don’t test you. When you have a facade of weakness, that can create a situation where they test how weak you are. The State of Israel cannot afford to be weak at any time. This is the Middle East. This is not…

Western Europe?

Europe is no big deal either.

So where would you use as an example?

Micronesia (laughs)! We’re not in Micronesia. We’re in the Middle East, with bonfires burning all the time around us: in Iraq and in Gaza; in Sinai there’s international terror; Afghanistan; wherever you look around us.

Is the Arab world at least beginning to understand that we’re here?

Some of them. Too few of them for my taste.

What’s the best we can hope for then: peace or just an acceptance that were here?

On the way to comprehensive peace, more and more states will have to be reconciled to the fact of our existence here.

And that only comes with an acceptance of our strength?

Some of them are reconciled to us. I hope that, for them, this is more than lip service. And some of them are not reconciled to our existence here – and the first among those are the Palestinians. They are not reconciled to our existence here. What can you do?

They still believe that we can be forced out of here?

Some of them, for sure. Hamas, for sure. That’s their ideology. Let there be no confusion.

And Abu Mazen is broadcasting weakness and Hamas is getting stronger?

It’s not a lose-lose combination, yet.

So what can we expect in the coming year?

In my analysis, first of all, we’re in the best geo-strategic position we’ve ever been in, and that is not going to change in 2006. We’re strong economically and militarily. Our enemies cannot constitute a threat in the short term. We face terrorism but we can deal with that terrorism. Terror is not hurting our stability. We have greater international legitimacy.

Because of the Gaza pullout?

Ironically, because of international terrorism. More countries have now, terribly, felt its impact themselves – Indonesia, Madrid, London – and therefore better understand what we have been going through and have been trying to do.

The pullout has led to greater legitimacy, because it has meant that it is more widely understood that we don’t want wars here; we want to live in peace.

We’ll publish this soon after Rosh Hashana. Would you like to end with a new year’s message?

I wish everyone a happy new year. Our people should be proud of their army – not of me – but of our people’s army.

We have the most extraordinary young generation – prepared to give of themselves for the country, in the army, with no interest other than protecting and caring about their duty.

Our achievements as a nation are tremendous. We insist on comparing ourselves to the world’s best. Our basketball team has to be as good as the world’s best. Our soccer teams. Our tennis players have to be as good as Maria – what’s her name?

Sharapova?

Yes. And that’s great. We should want to compare ourselves to the best. But we shouldn’t get too frustrated if we’re not always there yet. This model has only been on the road for 57 years. And we’re comparing ourselves to others that have been running since the 1700s, the 1600s, the 1000s.

Should we be aspiring to be like those other nations, then, or to be a light unto the nations?

To be the best of the best. But let’s be a light to ourselves first.

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