Israel Will Attack Iran and Destroy Its Nuclear Weapons Program, Outgoing Defense Minister Says

Even as Benjamin Netanyahu returns to power in Israel, the outgoing defense minister has said Tel Aviv could attack arch foe Iran, in order to thwart its nuclear weapons program.

According to Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Israel could launch an attack on Iran in two or three years, in order to take down its nuclear weapons facilities. Gantz was speaking to graduating Israeli Air Force cadets. He told the cadets that Israel has significantly increased its preparedness in recent years and is preparing for the possibility of an attack on Iran.

Existential Threats

Yair Lapid, who was replaced by Netanyahu as prime minister, also highlighted Israel's existential threats, adding that Iran will never be allowed to make nuclear weapons. "No Israeli government will agree to Iran becoming nuclear. If it is necessary to act, we will act," Lapid said.

Israel military
Israel military Wikimedia commons

Netanyahu Returns

The hawkish comment came at a time when the extra hardline dispensation under the leadership of Netanyahu took power in Israel on Thursday.

In early November, Netanyahu and allies won the Israeli parliamentary election, setting the stage for him to take oath as Israeli prime minister for a record sixth time. Netanyahu's coalition is dominated by ultra right wing leaders like Itamar Ben-Gvir of The Religious Zionist Party. Other right wing parties that were part of the Netanyahu coalition like the Shas party and the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) also made bi gains in the election.

Collapse of Nuclear Deal

There have been concerns in the international community that Iran's nuclear program was progressing in the aftermath of the collapse of the nuclear deal with the West. In November, there were reports that Tehran was moving closer to building a nuclear bomb when Iran said it had started enriching uranium to 60 percent purity at the Fordow nuclear site.

Uranium needs to be enriched to 90 percent to make weapons grade fissile material. However, with the nuclear deal falling apart, Iran has been able to advance rapidly in its secretive nuclear pursuit. Iran was enriching uranium to 20 percent levels before the deal with the western powers. Under the deal, Iran is mandated to limit uranium enrichment to 3.67 percent.

US arms sale to Israel
U.S. Air Force fighter jets flying in formation. Wikimedia Commons

Is Iran Close to Making Nuclear Bomb?

A senior Iranian leader said in July that the country was technically capable of making a nuclear bomb. The senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tehran can make the nuclear bomb but has not decided whether to go ahead or not. "Iran has the technical ability to build a nuclear bomb ... but has not made a decision to build an atomic bomb", said Kamal Kharrazi. He also said Iran has conducted extensive preparations that make it capable of striking 'deep inside Israel' is Iranian nuclear sites are targeted by Tel Aviv.

Bushehr Nuclear Plant, Iran
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi in Bushehr Nuclear Plant. Hossein Heidarpour / Wikimedia Commons

The fact that Iran is deploying advanced centrifuges in its nuclear facilities shows that Tehran is moving rapidly to possess nuclear weapons capabilities, according to experts. Now that Iran is stockpiling uranium of higher purity, it only takes Tehran a few more months to design a bomb and delivery system.