Israel must prepare for the possibility of striking Iran’s nuclear program on its own, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned on Tuesday, during an Independence Day speech he delivered in Herzliya.

He said that Iran is unimpressed with the West’s steps against its nuclear program and described Tehran’s nuclear program as “the most significant” threat not only to Israel, but to the Middle East and the “modern world.”

Iran’s drive for nuclear capabilities could end in disaster, Ya’alon added.

“It could spark an arms race in the Middle East and cause nuclear weapons to spread to terror organizations. This situation could be a nightmare for the Western world,” he warned.

“The world’s response to the Iranian nuclear program was delayed. The fact that centrifuges in Iran are continuing to spin and that enriched uranium has already been collected, proves that the regime in Tehran is not impressed by these steps taken so far. Even more so, the regime in Tehran does not identify determination in the Western world to stop its nuclear project and it therefore allows itself to continue to develop it,” the defense minister continued.

“Only by placing the Iranian regime before the dilemma of having a bomb or [risking its] survival will lead to the project being stopped.

“Only a significant increase in sanctions, international isolation, assistance, as well as moral support to the repressed citizens of Iran and a credible military option, will convince the regime in Tehran that its survival is preferable to the military nuclear project,” he added.

Israel should not lead the campaign against Iran, but the Jewish state is the first target of the ayatollah regime, Ya’alon said, citing threats by Iranian rulers.

“The world must lead the campaign against Iran, but Israel must prepare for the possibility that it will have to defend itself with its own powers,” he said.

“As someone who experienced wars and lost friends, subordinates, commanders and brothers in arms, I’m convinced that using military power is the last resort.

As the defense minister of Israel, I must do all I can in my decisions to avoid sorrow and bereavement... But we must be prepared to use military power if we [have to] and to overcome our enemies sharply, clearly and quickly.”

During his speech, Ya’alon said that in some sense “the War of Independence hasn’t ended yet. Security forces are facing, and will continue to face in the coming years, challenges on various fronts, from near to far, along our borders, and in states that are not close to us.”

Conventional military threats have decreased, but terrorist organizations, rockets, missiles and Iran remain a danger, he said.

“The threats have only changed, taken on a different form, evasive, slippery, uncurbed, and can surprise and cause damages to Israel and its citizens.”

Hezbollah and Hamas are armed with tens of thousands of rockets of different types and on the day they receive the order, “they’ll fire them at our cities and civilians.

Although Hezbollah is busy these months with combat on behalf of the regime of [Syrian President] Bashar Assad, it is ready for a conflict with Israel, with Iranian and Syrian assistance,” he added.

“Lebanese citizens and their leaders must understand that for every Hezbollah attack on us, the organization and Lebanon itself will be considered responsible and will pay the price,” Ya’alon said The brutal Syrian civil war presents security risks, but also opportunities, he added.

“The fact that Arab states are busy with themselves and their survival... prevents them from focusing on us.”

Also on Tuesday, in a lengthy interview with Israel Radio, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said that the IDF has the ability to attack Iran’s nuclear sites without help from other other nations.

When asked if the IDF has the capabilities to attack Iran alone, Gantz answered “unequivocally, yes.

“The Iranian challenge is a meaningful one. We must look at it strategically long-term.

We will do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done,” he said.

Gantz said that the top political and military officials discussed a possible strike in Iran, but denied reports that there were arguments on the topic.

“There are long, continuous discussions, and I presume we’ll have more of those in the future,” he said.

On the northern front, Gantz assured that the IDF is ready for a possible military confrontation with Syria and with Lebanon.

“We are ready, at any given time and in an immediate manner, for a war with Syria, both on the defense and on the offense. I don’t see it happening tomorrow morning, but despite that we are ready.”

On the southern front, Gantz discussed the achievements of Operation Pillar of Defense last November and said the relative quiet maintained since the cease-fire agreement with Hamas is a testament to the deterrence Israel established.

“There were several isolated incidents lately that were made to appear more prominent because of the relative quiet, and rightfully so. We have no intention to go back to the situation that was before Pillar of Defense. If this quiet continues [and no rockets are fired], there will be quiet in the Gaza Strip,” he said. “If the quiet does not continue, there will be no quiet in the Gaza Strip and it will be very painful [for the Hamas leadership] and we will not be afraid to resume our operations in the Strip and even extend them.

“We must not forget that Hamas holds full and direct responsibility to everything that happens in the Gaza Strip,” Gantz continued. “If rockets are fired from [the Strip], it’s either because Hamas allows it or because it doesn’t control the Strip. It is [Hamas’s] responsibility and we will demand that of it.”

The chief of staff also said the situation in the West Bank is not as grave as it was prior to the outbreaks of the first and second intifada, in 1987 and 2000, respectively, and that a third intifada was not currently on the horizon.

Regardless, Gantz assured that the IDF is ready for any possible escalation.

Gantz spoke at length about the enlistment of haredim into army service, asserting that “in principle, every citizen needs to serve their country” and promising the process will be “gradually, evolving.”

The chief of staff also stressed that the IDF needs any offered manpower to maintain the level of preparedness of its soldiers and its reserve soldiers.

“There are more fronts, more challenges. We need to be able to perform operational duty, as well as be in the required level of readiness for any possible escalation.

We also need to allow our reserve soldiers to drill as required and not just carry out operational duties. The more manpower we have, the better our response on a day-to-day basis will be,” he explained.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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