Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz sent out a letter for to all IDF soldiers on Thursday to commemorate the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The letter included a copy of a command given by then Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. David (Dado) Elazar at the end of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
"Despite facing the brunt of the fighting without sufficient warning, the IDF held its ground while engaged in multiple theaters and difficult fronts, and yet it managed to stave off the attack thanks to the bravery of our active and reserve duty soldiers," Gantz wrote. "We went from defense to an effective and vigilant counter attack, which pushed the war away from our borders and deep into enemy territory."
"Seasoned with experience, we will stay vigilant, ready to continue the fight," Gantz quoted Elazar, saying that those words still ring true today. "Today the IDF continues to stand watch, ready as ever. Even now, at the beginning of a new year. Seasoned with experience, our eyes are wide open and ears tuned to every noise or sound emanating from the storm which rages around us. The conflicts fought between our neighbors may be in their territory, but every bullet and every threat that crosses over to Israel is met with an appropriate response from us."
"My fellow warriors, forty years ago we bore a terrible weight on our shoulders, but we still stood tall, and today -- we stand as tall as ever. Remember our legacy, and honor those whose sacrifice allowed you to be here today -- Israel's fallen soldiers."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided Thursday to extend Gantz's three-year term in office by another year, in accordance with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon's recommendation. The extension is pending a cabinet vote, which has been set for next Tuesday.
Netanyahu briefed Gantz on his decision on Wednesday night.
"Over the past three years, IDF Chief of Staff Gantz has been successfully leading the Israel Defense Forces through the various and complex security challenges the State of Israel has faced," Netanyahu said in a statement.
"Benny Gantz's leadership of the IDF has been professional, ethical and mission-oriented. The defense minister, the chief of staff, the heads of the defense establishment and I work tirelessly, day and night, to ensure Israel's safety and security and its future."
A statement by Ya'alon said, "IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz has, over the past two and a half years, led the IDF to accomplish many achievements, the majority of which I cannot detail, but they have allowed the citizens of Israel to maintain their routine lives and they have allowed the State of Israel to thrive.
"In a time of unprecedented uncertainty in the Middle East, when we are facing major and complex challenges, both near and far, I have recommended to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Gantz's term be extended by one more year.
"The chief of staff brings with him a sense of determination, professionalism, responsibility and poise to this office and I'm sure that in his fourth year [in office] he will continue to position the Israel Defense Forces as a strong, advanced and deterring military, which allows us as decision-makers to lead Israel towards success and prosperity in a responsible manner."
After being notified of the extension, Gantz said he was sure that "the trusting, close and responsible cooperation between the IDF and the prime minister and defense minister will continue to thrive, in light of the security challenges that stand before the IDF and as part of our collective responsibility."
President Shimon Peres praised the decision to extend Gantz's term. "His election sends the message that Israel prefers peace because it is strong, and it is that strength that will convince others not to try to attack it again. Gantz has proved that he is what a commander needs to be, that if war can be avoided, it should, but if it cannot -- it should be won."
Gantz was promoted to chief of general staff on February 14, 2011. At the time of the promotion it was decided his term would be three years, with the possibility of an extension for "special circumstances."
When Ya'alon himself was IDF chief, then-Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz decided not to extend his term beyond the three years. It was thought that Ya'alon's opposition to then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip was the reason his term was not extended.
Meanwhile, Ya'alon said Thursday he did not believe Israel faced an existential threat during the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
During a special interview with Avi Tzur for the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, Ya'alon said Israel's enemies were not planning to sweep through the entire country. "I don't think there was an existential threat. It was clear to us that in both the northern and southern fronts they were not planning on getting to Tel Aviv or Haifa. The Syrians wanted to capture the Golan Heights. As far as they were concerned it was supposed to end at the Sea of Galilee. On Egypt's end it was a limited maneuver, those 12 kilometers [7 miles] they captured from us meant to serve as an advantaged starting point for negotiations ... the IDF turned their plans on their heads, in the north it got Damascus within artillery range and in the south had cut off Egypt's third army, and was on its way to Cairo. Only 101 kilometers [63 miles], and between us and Cairo there was not a single Egyptian soldier."
Ya'alon said that one of the first things he did after he was told he would become the IDF's Director of Military Intelligence was study the Agranat Commission's report. "Even if it was flawed from an intelligence standpoint, it is up to the commander to choose whether to adopt or not adopt its intelligence assessment ... I looked into the document's confidential sections as well, primarily how military intelligence functioned. After studying the document, I decided to meet the people who made the mistakes. After meeting those people I found myself a lot more concerned."
The interviewer asked Ya'alon whether the war could have been avoided, that then Egyptian President Anwar Sadat offered Israel peace for the Sinai Peninsula before the war, and that Israel declined the offer. "They say the future is set in stone yet hard to predict. The past always changes. History is an interpretation of facts. We should learn from it. I was not there, I was not in the prime minister's shoes at the time. I do not know what information they had and what they based their decisions on, so I am hesitant [to remark on it]."
Ya'alon spoke at a ceremony for fallen soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade on Thursday. "We cannot allow arrogance, complacency and recklessness to take hold of us," he said. The IDF must lead in a "responsible and calculated manner, which includes transparency, open leadership, criticism and casting doubt."