Some strange comments about "all out total war" and the use of WMD, by IDF Major General Eyal Eisenberg, former commander of the Gaza Division during Operation Cast Lead and newly appointed Home Front Command Chief, seem to be throwing everyone in the Israeli defense establishment into a panic. Although Ynet reports that the remarks in a speech at the Institute for National Security Studies were approved by military censors beforehand, the defense establishment is moving quickly to denounce them and demand that the IDF rein in Eisenberg. Defense Minister Ehud Barak caustically dismissed Eisenberg's assessment, saying that "We don't see a reason for any of our adversaries to initiate a broad, general campaign against Israel at this time."
Much of what Eisenberg apparently said is not new and has been expressed before by Israeli officials: the Arab Spring is a catalyst for Israel's encirclement by hostile Islamists; Egypt is facing total national collapse; Turkey needs to tone done its rhetoric over the flotilla; Hezbollah is further entrenching itself in Lebanon; Hamas and Iran are plotting their next moves against Israel.
There are two new items in the remarks, though, that triggered controversy. One is a bizarre allusion to Hamas possessing new weapons (rockets?): "we discovered a new weapon, and as result of this we instructed the public to hide under two roofs, rather than only one," Eisenberg said. Eisenberg is being criticized for making this statement because officials claim that knowledge of the weapons is still classified. A more disconcerting remark was this:
"This [all] raises the likelihood of an all-out, total war, with the possibility of weapons of mass destruction being used."
Further quotes from Eisenberg's speech (via Ynet):
"It looks like the Arab Spring, but it can also be a radical Islamic winter."
"In Lebanon, Hezbollah is growing stronger within government arms, but it has not lost its desire to harm Israel, and the ties with Turkey aren't at their best."
"Iran has not abandoned its nuclear program. The opposite it true; it continues full steam ahead."
"In Egypt, the army is collapsing under the burden of regular security operations, and this is reflected in the loss of control in the Sinai and the turning of the border with Israel into a terror border, with the possibility that Sinai will fall under the control of an Islamic entity."
No one has yet advanced any explanation for why Eisenberg's pre-approved remarks are now being treated as those coming from a loose cannon. Despite a controversial record that includes playing a leading role in Operation Cast Lead -- a role that makes him potentially guilty of war crimes -- he has continually been entrusted with increasingly significant responsibilities by the IDF.