During one of the truces declared between Hamas and Israel during Operation Protective Edge in 2014، then-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz addressed the residents of the south، calling on them to return to their homes، which they fled amid daily rocket barrages from nearby Gaza.
"The rain will wash away the dust of the tanks، anemones will bloom again، and visitors will once again tour the area،" Gantz said in an address that was later dubbed the "Anemone Speech."
Shortly thereafter، the ceasefire was violated، with Hamas again launching dozens of rockets and mortar shells at Israel's southern communities.
Gantz was thought to be very attached to the south، even more so than his predecessors.
During the first winter after Operation Protective Edge، Gantz participated in a race that was held as part of the annual "Darom Adom" (Red South) festival، which marks anemone blossoming season in the northern Negev.
By taking part in the race، Gantz sought to come full circle with his speech. He ran alongside his bodyguards and regional council heads through the Shokeda forest، blanketed by those anemones.
He crossed the finish line، proud that his vision of hope in the midst of the war been realized. Gantz had returned to the south، to calm، and to the blossoming of the anemones.
These days، we are witnessing attempts at a political targeted assassination of Benny Gantz by the Likud upper echelon، which promises to "expose" embarrassing details about his performance in the 2014 conflict. There is no dispute that the Gaza operation could have been handled differently، however، the political echelon should be held responsible for its own failures. The top military brass did nothing but follow their instructions.
Gantz was wise enough to invest his efforts in building the resilience of the Israeli communities along the Gaza border، and therefore he delivered the "Anemone Speech."
He knew the residents of the south were on the frontline with Gaza، and acknowledged their need to hear words of encouragement as they huddled in bomb shelters while rocket after rocket was launched at them.
Although he elicited criticism for his performance as chief of staff، Gantz gave the residents of the south strength during Operation Protective Edge; he held daily talks with regional council leaders، updating them about every terror tunnel that was discovered، as well as of any movement of the IDF forces.
"Gantz knew when to be the army chief and when to stop. He understood that both the army and the civilian population were facing the same threat،" a southern regional council head said.
But now، just before a smear campaign is launched against Gantz، the public needs to know that he also had command of the civilian population as well as the army.
The Gaza border communities' residents، whether from the Right or the Left، understood this was a war of no choice. And in the midst of the chaos and public ire at the political echelon's zigzagging، it was Gantz who stood strong، like an island of sanity.