By Ray Fleming

MILITARY men are inclined to speak out of turn and, as we see in the not infrequent statements of US and UK brass in Afghanistan, they do not always reflect the policies of their political masters, although they are seldom criticised when they are out of line.

However, I can't help thinking that Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, should respond to the views expressed on Tuesday by his most senior military officer, Benny Gantz who is chief of staff of Israel Defence Forces (IDF). In remarks made on the third anniversary of Operation Cast Lead -- the bombing and invasion of Gaza for three weeks -- General Gantz said that offensive was “an excellent operation” and that “sooner or later there will be no escape from conducting a similar significant operation.

The IDF knows how to operate in a determined and offensive manner against terrorists in the Gaza strip.” The “excellent operation” referred to led to the death of 1'400 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, and 14 Israelis. It was immediately criticised in international quarters as “disproportionate” and misjudged, and a later United Nations inquiry, which Israel rejected although it had refused to give evidence to its members, underlined that criticism. It is deeply disturbing, therefore, to learn that the Israeli military thinks there is “no escape” from repeating an operation so widely condemned the first time round.