National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi says that Israel was not surprised by yesterday’s reports on a new underground Iranian nuclear facility that is likely impervious to US bunker-buster bombs.
Speaking at the 2023 Herzliya Conference, the veteran politician acknowledges that “of course, it limits the ability to attack,” but adds that “there is no place that can’t be reached.”
He declines to clarify whether Israel could reach such a site, or whether only the US has the capability of bombing tunnels dug deep into mountains.
Hanegbi stresses that Israel prefers that Iran be stopped through an agreement, and not by military action — but says Jerusalem would take action if it needed to.
If we reach the conclusion “that there is no avoiding military action against the nuclear facilities in Iran,” he says, “I think that any Israeli leader will have full backing from Israel’s society and the state to do what Menachem Begin did in 1981, what Olmert did in 2007. To act when all the other options aren’t effective anymore.”
Israeli jets destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, and Syria’s suspected nuclear facility in Deir ez-Zor 26 years later.
Despite fundamental disagreements over the wisdom of returning to the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran, Hanegbi says Israel and the US are in accord regarding their determination to stop Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon.
“We are sending the message, so is the US, that if you cross the red line, the price you will pay as a regime and as a country is one you wouldn’t want to pay, so be careful.”
He explains that the “red line” is when Israel determines that Iran is “coming close to the moment of no return.”
He adds that Israel and America agree on the red line, but have different approaches on how to keep Iran from getting there.