JERUSALEM, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Defending Israel from military threats is not only an immense responsibility but a personal endeavor, newly appointed Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Tuesday.
"My feeling is one of sacred duty, since I am familiar with the enormity of the mission. It is an important undertaking," Ya'alon said in a ceremony attended by top brass at the nation's military headquarters in Tel Aviv to mark the beginning of his term, according to remarks sent to Xinhua.
The defense portfolio is considered to be the second most important post in the Israeli cabinet, and Ya'alon, who served as army chief of staff from 2002 to 2005 and as strategic affairs minister in the previous government, is assuming the post amidst growing regional unrest.
"I will bring the best of my experience to this job, and I am determined to lead the army to new heights... in order to face the challenges of the future," Ya'alon said following his appointment by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.
He said that Iran's nuclear program is the main challenge confronting Israel in the coming years, as well as mounting threats along the borders with Gaza and Syria, the upheaval in the Arab world and planned defense budget cuts.
Outgoing defense minister Ehud Barak, who prior to the election on Jan. 22 announced his retirement from politics, lavished praise on Ya'alon, saying that he brings to his new position "vast military experience and a deep understanding of the political realm... He says what he thinks and does what he says," Barak said.