Israeli Chief of Staff Undercuts PM on Iran—Then Retracts

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“Israel Army Chief Says He Believes Iran Won’t Build Bomb”… “Israel’s top general says Iran unlikely to make bomb”… “Israeli general: ‘Rational’ Iranian leaders not pushing nuclear bomb”…

Those headlines—from the New York Times, Reuters, and CNN respectively—are typical of a media firestorm kicked up on Thursday by an Independence Day interview that Israeli chief of staff Benny Gantz gave to Israel’s left-wing daily Haaretz.

The reports contrast Gantz’s allegedly pacific statements with recent hawkish statements by his boss, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

In an interview to CNN on Tuesday, Netanyahu said sanctions were “certainly taking a bite out of the Iranian economy, but so far they haven’t rolled back the Iranian program or even stopped it by one iota…so if the sanctions are going to work they better work soon.”

On whether Iran’s nuclear program is for civilian purposes: “They said it’s for medical isotopes. Right? That’s why they’re developing ICBMs to carry medical isotopes to Europe or Israel or the United States.”

And on Iranian rationality: “When it comes to a militant Islamic regime I wouldn’t be too sure, because unlike, say, the Soviets, they can put their ideology before their survival. So I don’t think you can bet on their rationality.”

And in a Holocaust Remembrance Day speech last week, Netanyahu said Iran was “feverishly working to develop atomic weapons….”

Now, what did Gantz say, and was it indeed seriously at odds with Netanyahu’s words? If so, it could be of significance. The fact that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, another Iran hawk, did not order a strike on Iran while Gantz’s predecessor as chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, was in office has been attributed to the fact that Ashkenazi and other security chiefs at the time were Iran doves who opposed a strike.

Gantz begins his interview to Haaretz by saying: “If Iran goes nuclear it will have negative dimensions for the world, for the region, for the freedom of action Iran will permit itself.” Later, regarding American and Israeli perceptions of the threat, he says: “We aren’t two oceans away from the problem—we live here with our civilians, our women and our children, so we interpret the extent of the urgency differently.”

So far, then, no great daylight between Gantz and Netanyahu.

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  • WildJew

    Chief of Staff Gantz said the following to Israel Hayom yesterday: “An Iran with a militarized nuclear capability could potentially be an existential threat, but it is not necessarily an existential threat,” he said. “These statements were made in the past and I think it would be appropriate to clarify them. We are the strongest country in the region, and I think that we need to make sure that the situation stays this way in the future. The problem of a nuclear Iran is much more of a global problem than it is an Israeli problem…"

  • StephenD

    The balance of the world would like to show discord among the Israeli leadership. As with all human institutions there will be disagreements and some issues won't be seen in the same light. Proves they're free thinkers rather than EVERYONE spouting a party line (American Democrat Party Leaders). The world also knows that the Iranian leadership is whacked out of their minds. They know their desire to usher in the 12th Imam and bring disaster to the world. Israel will be on the front line but not the only line. Iran CANNOT be allowed to have a nuke. When we get a real leader in the W.H. perhaps we can see cooler heads prevail at the sight of strength of purpose as an Ally to Israel. Maybe Iran will calm down but if not they know what they face.

    • WildJew

      Americans do not see a nuclear Iran as an existential or an immediate threat. I think this is a mistake, because as Iran stockpiles nuclear weapons and provides these materials to terrorist groups and cells, the world will be a more dangerous place, not to mention the incredible instability in the Middle East and the region a nuclear Iran will generate. A nuclear Iran is more of an "immediate" threat to Israel than it is to the world, that is where I disagree with Chief of Staff Gantz and Netanyahu by the way, who makes a similar case. The international community does not feel threatened the way Israel does and for good reason. Iran's murderous proxies are concentrating on Israel for now. Given the track record of the Bush administration and the Obama administration, I do not see the United States acting militarily to prevent Iran from making nukes. Both administrations have tried to dissuade Israel from acting in her own self-defense. In the long-run, a nuclear Iran will pose a terrible threat to the world.

  • Schlomotion

    The problem here is that the US redline to Iran is "do not develop a nuclear weapon" and Israel's redline to Iran is "do not develop a nuclear power plant." Hornik is siding with the Israelis, not the Americans. This is understandable, because he lives in Beersheva. A lot of American Zionists also side with Israel and not America on this. I think they should move to Beersheva too.

    • reader

      I think you should move to Teheran.

    • Bulan Sabriel

      Iran's leaders have called for the destruction of the "Great Satan". "Death to America" is a government-sponsored chant at events. These people mean to humble and destroy America. I would say that you are a traitor who hates Israel more than he loves America, but I have never once seen evidence that you love America.

    • Hank Rearden

      You don't need 20% enriched uranium to run a reactor. Reactors run on 3% enriched uranium. The significance of 20% is that it shows the Iranians have a viable enrichment cascade. Fortunately, while it is easy to build a bomb once you have the highly enriched uranium, it is considerably more difficult to miniaturize it for a missile warhead.


      Schlock, You should move to the Turd Reich.

      Say Hi to your furher and osama bin laden for me.

  • Ghostwriter

    Whoever said the Mullahs in Iran were rational people?

  • cjk

    Israel is too smart and under too much of a threat to have open disagreements or even appear to have them on such a high level.
    They are doing this on purpose to confuse the Iranians as to their true intentions IMO.
    Actually kind of concerns me because this and more of this is exactly what I would expect before an actual attack on the fascists in Tehran.

  • bubbaland1

    Rather weak article. Netanyahu and Barak are blow hards. They have been yammering about attacking Iran for a long time. Israel does not have the stomach to go it alone. The unstated reality is that Israel abdicated its sovereignty to the USA when they signed the Oslo accords.

  • Hank Rearden

    Sounds like it's time for Netanyahu to roll out Patton's comment to Truscott – "General, if your conscience will not permit you to carry out my orders, I'll relieve you and get someone who will."


    It is better to destroy the Islamic Republic of Iran BEFORE it gets nukes than after.

    The Persian people hate the mullahs that replaced the Shah, more than they hated the Shah.

    What Freedom have the ayatollahs permitted the Persian people? The Freedom of Koranic/Islamofascist enslavement and the burkas, stoning to death for "family honor", public executions of gay teens.

    The Islamic Republic of Iran MUST BE DESTROYED before they can spread the poison of sharia law to entire world.