President Reuven Rivlin hosted the IDF Chief of Staff and the Forum of the General Staff on the occasion of the conclusion of the term in office of Lieutenant General Benjamin (Benny) Gantz Monday, before Gantz is due to step down from his post on Monday, February 16.
Before the meeting began the President and Chief of Staff met in the President's office and discussed the issues of the day and then proceeded to take a group photo with all the General Staff Forum.
Rivlin then addressed the General Staff at large.
"Last year was a significant milestone in the history of this important forum," Rivlin said. "The last Generals to serve in the IDF during the Yom Kippur War retired from the military and left the stage for a new generation whose formative experiences were different from theirs."
"The Yom Kippur War was the third all-out war that Israel had participated in," he noted. "As it stands, it was also the last great battle in which the IDF fought against regular armies."
"Since that war the political and military situation has changed frequently and with rapidity," he continued. "While in the past we failed under the perception over-certainty, today the concern is about a constant state of uncertainty that would erode our decision-making abilities."
"In a situation of uncertainty, the eyes of the people of Israel look to this forum," Rivlin explained. He then addressed recent events, including Operation Protective Edge over the summer.
"This forum recently demonstrated its willingness to make decisions, take risks and to stop terrorist plots to harm Israelis and even taking calculated risks," Rivlin said. "Last summer we proved that we are willing to do everything possible to restore calm to the south."
"Our enemies know full well that if necessary we are not deterred from a confrontation and will protect the lives of our citizens," he continued. "We are aware of both the threats from near and far, and we are determined to give them a true and accurate response. The State of Israel shall fight back against anyone who tries to threaten our lives and our freedom."
"Members of the General Staff, the citizens of Israel trust you, and are confident you will lead the State of Israel safely," he added. "We cannot imagine a forum more talented, responsible, serious, with in-depth knowledge and confident in its direction, than this forum."
"You navigate the State of Israel through wisdom and responsibility in moments of uncertainty, while dealing with unforeseen threats and frequently changing battlefronts."
"Your power lies in the ability to cope with contemporary battlegrounds, along with an understanding of the world view of the future battlefield and while preparing the required response. In light of the changes taking place in the Middle East your task is to mould the Israel Defense Forces, as a high-quality and ground-breaking military that can face both present and future threats."
Rivlin then addressed Gantz directly.
“Dear Benny, I was fortunate to meet you; as a member of the Knesset Foreign and Defense Committee, and in our meetings together," he stated. "Your path is one of consideration and understanding of the world around you, you know every corner of this land, each hill and valley, each path and trail, and with this you have led the IDF, to the very highest peaks."
"While you may soon be be out of your uniform, the people of Israel expect you to lead them, and to continue to bear the burden of the people, even as a civilian," he continued. "The people of Israel already call on you to get back behind the wheel, when you are no longer in uniform as far as your previous role, and I have no doubt that your personal timeout will be shorter than expected."
"The Israeli people need you, at the forefront of Israel's leadership, and I hope that you will continue to use your good power to affect the State of Israel," he added. "I am sure that in spite of the different style of your command and that of the incoming chief of staff, the spirit of the commander, chiefly with the mission to protect the State of Israel, and striving to act in its best interests, will live on in the IDF, in all its divisions, units and officers."
"You are undoubtedly one of the best of our sons, our best soldiers, and I, like all the people of Israel, felt confident, when the wheel was in your capable hands.”
Gantz thanked Rivlin for his warm words, responding, “It is a great honor for me to come here as I conclude my role as head of the General Staff and this forum."
"The IDF is an army of the people, and we will today hold a discussion on how we can make possible the people, and all those within it, to continue to serve in the IDF," Gantz continued. "The security challenges before the commanders of the State of Israel are from near and far, from the north and the south, in many forms, old and known, new and innovative – there are very many challenges. Challenges that require constant thinking, the building of relevant capabilities, challenges which require a willingness to act with power when required, and require great professional understanding of when to use this power."
"Sitting before you are the commanders who stand at the head of the various divisions, agencies and departments that represent a very, very broad range of activity," he noted. "It was an honor to be a part of them, and to lead them for the last four years, the IDF reached many achievements, some operational, some in training, some in the building up of forces, and all this is thanks to these people, and those working with them, it has been a great privilege to work with you over these past years."
"I have no doubt that [incoming IDF Chief of Staff] Gadi [Eizenkott], who replaces me and is extremely familiar with the environment and challenges, and has all the required experience and determination needed to continue to lead the army in the right way, in coordination with the instructions of the political leadership, and I wish him much success and I am convinced he will be successful," he concluded.
Gantz also addressed Rivlin personally.
“You were sworn in as President during the war, and quickly met with the commanders of the forces in the field, and we saw you, sadly, in your thoughtful, considerate and ongoing visits to the bereaved families who had lost that most precious to them," he noted. "I am pleased to see that the fitting tradition continues in the State of Israel, that the President’s Residence continues to embrace the IDF."