Israel's military chief said in an interview published Wednesday that he believes Iran will choose not to build a nuclear bomb, an assessment that contrasted with the gloomier statements of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pointed to differences over the Iran issue at the top levels of Israeli leadership.
The comments by Lt. Gen Benny Gantz, who said international sanctions have begun to show results, could relieve pressure on the Obama administration and undercut efforts by Israeli political leaders to urge the United States to get as tough as possible on Iran.
Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have repeatedly stressed that they do not think sanctions and diplomacy will persuade Iran to halt a nuclear program they describe as a military one, and they warn that the time to stop it is quickly shrinking.
But the Israeli security establishment is believed to be far less convinced about the urgency of military action. Gantz made his own reservations clear in a handful of rare interviews with Israeli newspapers, offering comments that analysts said seemed intended to inject nuance into a debate that has reached frenzied heights this spring. Speaking to the newspaper Haaretz, he said that the Israeli military would be ready to act if ordered, but that he did not think that this year would be "necessarily go, no-go."
Gantz described Iranian leaders as "very rational people". "I believe he would be making an enormous mistake, and I don't think he will want to go the extra mile," Gantz said of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
(In exclusive partnership with The Washington Post.)