Israel could launch a military offensive targeting Iran’s nuclear sites within a two to three-year timeframe, Defense Minister Benny Gantz told a class of graduating Israeli Air Force cadets on Wednesday, boasting that the country had “significantly increased its preparedness in recent years and is preparing for the possibility of an attack on Iran.”
Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid clarified that such an attack would be a response to “threats that we see as existential,” assuring the newly-minted pilots of Israel’s military superiority while warning the country’s “enemies” that “no Israeli government will agree to Iran becoming nuclear. If it is necessary to act, we will act.”
Lapid was replaced by Benjamin Netanyahu when the latter’s newly-elected government was sworn in on Thursday. Israel’s longest-serving prime minister until he was unseated last year, Netanyahu is a committed Iran hawk who has been predicting the Islamic Republic would have a nuclear bomb within three years since 1992.
Israel’s own military intelligence forecast does not include Tehran getting the bomb anytime soon, however. Instead, the country “will continue on its current path of slow progress” in the nuclear realm, a report seen by Israel Hayom on Sunday predicted, adding that “Iran will only change its policies if extreme sanctions are imposed on it; then it could decide to accelerate enrichment to military grade.”
While Iran revealed last month it was producing enriched uranium at 60% purity at two of its nuclear plants, weapons grade requires 90% purity. Tehran has long insisted its nuclear program is entirely peaceful in nature, though the head of its Atomic Energy Organization claimed in August that they had the technical ability to build a bomb if they wanted to.
While some of the partners in the now-defunct 2015 nuclear agreement that limited Iran’s uranium enrichment to 4% have made efforts to reanimate the deal, Tehran has accused the US of stonewalling negotiations even while Israel has urged Washington to ditch the deal entirely. Israel has vowed to maintain its hostile posture regardless, insisting that Tehran is determined to “build a nuclear weapon that endangers Israel’s existence” and any potential deal would merely help them accomplish that.