Photo Credit: Lio Mizrahi / Flash 90
An Israeli Air Force Blackhawk helicopter picks up a soldier up during an aerobatic display at a graduation ceremony for new pilots at the Hatzerim base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beersheva, on December 31, 2015.

The question of whether and when the Israel Defense Forces will face a conflict in Gaza depends on the terrorists in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told graduating pilots on Wednesday (Dec. 27) at the Hatzerim Air Force Base.

Speaking at the IDF pilot’s course graduation ceremony, Netanyahu told the graduates, “Today the air force is at the peak of its abilities – with the best technological tools, the best planes in the world, the best pilots in the world, with offensive and defensive capabilities and with awesome firepower that can reach both short-range and distant targets as necessary.”

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Nevertheless, he said, Israel continues to face major challenges in the north, south and east.

“On all of these fronts we find the arms of radical Islam, which has already caused terrible disasters in our region but not in our state. We are an island in a very stormy sea,” Netanyahu said. “We are guarding our security based on a clear policy: We will not allow Iranian military forces to establish bases in Syria in order to attack us and we will act to prevent the manufacture of precise and deadly weapons aimed at us.”

In Gaza, he said, Israel wants the local population to “live its life quietly and calmly” but, he said, “the decision as to whether or not there is quiet in Gaza depends, first of all, on Gaza.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also addressed the new pilots. He observed that Wednesday’s ceremony was taking place 35 years after the outbreak of the First Lebanon War. Should another battle begin again in the north, he said, “the power [of the Israel Air Force] will be much more impressive . . . Planes, UAVs and drones, Iron Dome, David’s Sling and the Arrow System – all this and today’s air force,” he pointed out.

“What will the Air Force look like in the future, in 30 years?

“The Israeli Air Force is the crushing force of the Israel Defense Forces,” he said, and added that new challenges await the force future years.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.