JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz says the Jewish state must remain strong, united and vigilant to protect itself in a sea of Middle Eastern instability.
Speaking at the annual conference at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center, Gantz described security challenges at Israel's borders.
In the north, the IDF must monitor Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based Iranian proxy, and Syria, crumbling under the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
Gantz sees little hope for stability under Assad, who was just reelected in what many consider a sham election last week. Hezbollah has sent substantial numbers of fighters to back Assad's forces.
"It is like a deck of cards that has collapsed," Times of Israel quoted Gantz. "As long as Assad is in power, there will be no effective solution. I expect we could see another decade of violence there. The three-year-old civil war has killed more than 160,000 and displaced millions more.
Hezbollah, meanwhile, has a more extensive missiles cache than most of the world's developed nations, Gantz said, and Hamas is accruing longer-range missiles that can reach Israel's heartland.
Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel, is now partners in a Palestinian unity government. Gantz says the Islamist group ruling Gaza has longer-range missiles that can penetrate deep inside Israel.
Gantz said Israel's deterrent capabilities are critically important in this part of the world, and the Jewish state must remain "vigilant and prepared" at all times.
"We have no alternative but to stand here as a strong and united nation," he said.