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Gantz: We must ‘adapt our plans’ to prepare for a nuclear Iran

Prime minister says Israel carefully monitoring situation in Lebanon and that IDF currently in better place than it was in 2006 war against Hezbollah

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at a graduation ceremony for Israel's National Defense College outside Tel Aviv on July 14, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at a graduation ceremony for Israel's National Defense College outside Tel Aviv on July 14, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday called for Israel to step up its preparations for the possibility of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“Against the greatest threat — Iran arming itself with a nuclear weapon — we have no choice but to expand our force build-up, to continue to rely on our human capital and to adapt our capabilities and our plans,” Gantz said at a graduation ceremony for Israel’s National Defense College outside Tel Aviv.

In recent months, the United States and Iran have been negotiating a mutual return to the 2015 nuclear deal, but these talks have so far failed to achieve a breakthrough, increasing the likelihood that Tehran will fully abandon the accord. Israel has maintained that as it is not part of the nuclear deal, it is free to act as it sees fit to prevent Iran from obtaining an atomic bomb.

In his speech, Gantz called for the government to allow the country’s security services to “maintain military superiority, which ensures our secure existence and advances peace.”

The remark appeared to refer to a report by the Kan broadcaster earlier in the evening that the IDF was asking the government for a major budget increase, in large part to prepare itself to conduct strikes aimed at thwarting Iran’s nuclear pursuit.

“All of these threats demand that we speed up and increase our preparedness to carry out our mission with an iron wall of action and not to get by with just words,” Gantz said.

Speaking at the same event, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned of threats coming from Lebanon, which has seen an unprecedented financial crisis.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at a graduation ceremony for Israel’s National Defense College outside Tel Aviv on July 14, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

“Lebanon is on the verge of — or even I’d say in the midst of — a collapse, like every country that Iran takes over and establishes itself within,” he said.

“We have a joint enemy with the citizens of Lebanon: Iran and Hezbollah,” the premier said, adding that, unlike the Lebanese, Israel has the capabilities to counter those threats.

The premier said Israel was carefully monitoring the situation in Lebanon and was prepared to act should Hezbollah attempt to attack Israel.

“We will not allow any country or terrorist organization to threaten the State of Israel, its security, its sovereignty or its people,” Bennett said.

The premier’s remarks came as Israel marked 15 years since the outbreak of the 2006 Second Lebanon War — a military campaign that was marred by mismanagement and malfunction within the IDF and the government.

“Some of these [problems] I experienced from up close, as the commander of a reserve unit that operated deep inside enemy territory. Like everyone I saw the confusion, the helplessness, the lack of orders, of clear lines and clear spirit,” Bennett said.

“Today we’re in a different place,” he said.

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