Israel will not tolerate a nuclear Iran, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau, has stressed to The Jerusalem Post in an unusually hard-hitting interview.
For now, Israel is backing diplomatic and economic efforts to thwart the Iranians, Gilad added, but it doubts these will work and it is keeping all options open.
Asked about the complexities of any resort to military action, particularly since Iran has built its facilities to withstand a repeat of the IAF’s 1981 destruction of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor at Osirak, Gilad replied, tellingly, that domestic critics 27 years ago said the Osirak raid “couldn’t be done. And the fact is, it succeeded.”
“Iran is a country with smart people that have capabilities,” he noted. “It really would be a considerable challenge. Come the day, if and when this or that option is adopted, what will matter is the outcome.”
Gilad was speaking to the Post at a time when some senior figures in the defense establishment have indicated in private forums that Israel might have to begin to prepare for the reality of Iran achieving its nuclear goals.
But he dismissed this notion and was adamant that there was no tendency whatsoever in the defense establishment to accept a nuclear Iran.
He said the assessment, which he shared, was that Israel could not be reconciled to a nuclear Iran – not only because it might press the button, but because the very fact of this regime having that weaponry would constitute an existential threat.
“The Iranians are determined to obtain nuclear weaponry,” said Gilad. “Iran is controlled by an ideology and a regime that has set itself the goal to be rid of Israel.”
While US President-elect Barack Obama has said he will engage in tough diplomacy to try to deter the Iranians, Gilad said flatly that “diplomatic pressure against a state this determined can slow processes, but cannot halt them.”
As for economic pressure, that might work if Iran were facing “total isolation,” he said. “But that’s not happening.”
The economic pressure was “much more impressive than is understood,” he noted. “But the fact is, it is not preventing the dangerous process of a nuclear Iran.”
On Wednesday, Iran announced it had test-fired a two-stage, solid-fuel rocket with a 1,200-mile range that could reach Israel.
Said Gilad: “They will continue. The picture is clear. They are building more missiles. They’re dealing with uranium enrichment.”
For Israel, he said, “this is indeed a situation that we can’t tolerate. What can be done about it? First of all, we still stick with the diplomatic option, and all the options are on the table, as President [George W.] Bush said.”
Beyond that, he said, “I can’t go into details… Elaborating directly assists the enemy in its war against Israel. The test will be in the result – whether we are able or not to prevent this grave threat.
“The more we talk about it – however seductive that may be – the more we brag, the more we weaken our capacity to achieve. We cannot accept a nuclear Iran. We cannot be reconciled to it.”