Israel will not have a second chance to attack Iran’s nuclear program, so let’s not mess it up, opposition leader Shaul Mofaz said Monday. The former defense minister and army chief said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s gung-ho rush to attack Iran would put Israeli lives at risk as well as severely damage Israel’s ties with its close ally, the United States.
“I reject the claim that if no action is taken by the end of the year there will be no going back,” said Mofaz in an interview to Army Radio. “The Iranian leaders have yet to reach a final decision about weaponizing their uranium and even when they do, it will take a year or two for them to reach the capability. We will know when they do and then the Americans will move ahead.”
Mofaz said that as opposed to an Israeli strike, which would at most delay the production of nuclear weapons, a US-led attack could deliver a final blow to the Iranian plans and even topple the regime.
“Two months ago I sat opposite [President] Obama and the US’s top defense officials and I am convinced that he will do anything to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran,” said Mofaz, adding that he believed the US president would make a public statement to that effect within weeks.
“Is Netanyahu’s lack of faith in Obama reason enough to go to war?” Mofaz asked. “We must give the Americans time to see their sanctions strategy through.”
“There is no question that Israel has to be ready for any eventuality. The key question is how,” said Mofaz. “This is no way to go to war. We have lost our ability to intimidate, we have lost the element of surprise and we have lost the support of the public.”
Mofaz reiterated his belief that an Israeli attack would be insufficient to bring about a strategic shift in the regional power balance and would instead spark a regional war and, in the process, antagonize the US.
“If there is no choice, if the US turns its back to us, Israel will make sure that the threat is removed. But we are not there yet,” said Mofaz.
Israeli officials have spoken before of differing with Washington over where “red lines” existed with advances in Iran’s nuclear program.
Barak reportedly believes Iran is only a few months away from crossing the threshold beyond which a military strike on its program will be useless, while the US believes it has more time.
Both Barak and Netanyahu reportedly prefer for the US to lead in any such strike, but say they will go it alone if they have to.
Israeli officials have pointed to a 1981 strike on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear facility, which knocked Baghdad out of the nuclear arms race despite analysts’ views that it would only be marginally effective, as an argument for going it alone.
On Sunday Mofaz demanded that Netanyahu meet with him urgently to present him with all the details regarding his “intention to lead Israel to war.”
In a letter sent to Netanyahu, with copies sent to the defense minister, the chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the attorney general, Mofaz demanded that he be presented with detailed attack plans and briefed on the positions of defense establishment heads, up-to-date risk assessments, home front preparedness and the official US position on an Israeli strike on Iran.