Amid a build-up in tensions, former national security adviser Yaakov Amidor warned on Monday that Tehran has the capability to inflict serious damage on Israel, which he said must work with the new US administration on tackling the threat.
“Yes, Iran has the potential to harm us significantly. It depends on what level they want to produce this encounter,” Amidror, who is currently a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, told Radio 103 FM.
“They can kidnap, and this will not be the first time; they can harm Israelis and Israeli institutions abroad, and this too will not be the first time; they can try what they are trying to do to Israeli-owned ships, and this too will not be the first time. At the highest level, they can fire missiles at the State of Israel.”
His comments come amid indications the Israel-Iran conflict is increasingly being waged at sea, marking a change in the conflict that previously took place primarily via airstrikes, cyberattacks, alleged espionage activities, and on land. Meanwhile, Israel’s intelligence agencies warned Monday of Iranian efforts to lure Israelis abroad to kidnap or otherwise harm them.
Speaking days after an apparent attack on the Iranian Natanz nuclear facility, which has been linked to Israel, Amidror rejected claims that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be stirring up the tensions with Tehran for his own political benefit.
“I can say from my experience with the prime minister that he was very serious on this issue during the time I worked with him,” Amidror said. “I can’t see what he will gain in the political sphere from bragging about the Iranian issue.”
Earlier Monday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz called for a high-level investigation into recent apparent leaks to the press by Israeli officials regarding the recent attacks, saying they were “damaging to our troops, to our security and to the interests of the State of Israel.”
Asked if he harbored any concerns that Netanyahu, whose office directly controls the Mossad, was acting not out of national security considerations but out of his own political interests, raising the specter of war in order to pressure potential allies into joining his government coalition, Gantz said: “I think the prime minister has extensive experience in the political-diplomatic field and I wouldn’t belittle that. I think that all other considerations must be removed, and I hope that is what he is doing.”
Over the weekend, reports emerged from Iran that its Natanz nuclear site had suffered a total power cut in what was widely assumed to be the result of an Israeli cyberattack. Jerusalem refused to comment on the matter, while Iran has blamed Israel, with its foreign minister vowing on Monday to “take revenge on the Zionists.”
The electrical glitch came hours after Tehran began using a new, more powerful centrifuge that could reportedly enrich uranium at a much faster rate than its existing equipment.
Amidror suggested it may have been the Americans who leaked information on the Natanz attack.
“From past experience, more than once the Americans have leaked such things, mainly to prevent the thought on the other side, even for a moment, that it was an American action,” he said.
Amidror, who was national security adviser while the nuclear agreement was being crafted and sparred with his American counterpart at the time, Susan Rice, said Israel must work with the new US administration on Iran in order to advance its own goals.
“We do not determine the administration in the United States and we must understand that this is the administration, and that from it we must derive the maximum benefit for the State of Israel. There is nothing to complain about; it is the administration and we have to work with it,” he said.
“We are certainly not as powerful as the United States, so I imagine that if they want they can do more, but that is not a question for discussion. The question is what do we do with our strengths, and we should do our best with our strengths,” Amidror added.
Hosting US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at his office in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said Monday that Israel and the US agree on never allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.
“In the Middle East, there is no threat more dangerous, serious and pressing than that posed by the fanatical regime in Iran,” said Netanyahu at a press conference alongside Austin, citing Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, arming of terror groups, and calls for Israel’s annihilation.
“Mr. Secretary, we both know the horrors of war. We both understand the importance of preventing war. And we both agree that Iran must never possess nuclear weapons. My policy as prime minister of Israel is clear — I will never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capability to carry out its genocidal goal of eliminating Israel,” he said.
Austin, speaking after Netanyahu, refrained from explicitly mentioning Iran but said he had decided to travel to Israel to “express our desire for earnest consultations with Israel, as we address shared challenges in the region.”
Austin’s visit comes amid ongoing talks in Vienna regarding a return to the 2015 nuclear deal by both Iran and the United States, a move that is staunchly opposed by Israel, particularly by Netanyahu.