Hours after a former head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission was quoted as saying that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was exploiting the Iranian nuclear threat for political gains, Netanyahu reiterated that Iran must be deprived of any capacity to make nuclear arms.
Speaking a day after he met US National Security Adviser Susan Rice about the upcoming round of talks between the world powers and Iran regarding a final nuclear agreement, Netanyahu said “we know that the best defense against nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran is no nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran.”
His words came at a ceremony in Netanya, with the participation of World War II veterans, commemorating the Russian victory over Nazi Germany.
“The most important thing is that Iran does not have nuclear weapons capabilities, and that needs to be the supreme and most important goal of the present efforts in talks with Iran – to prevent Iran from the capability to manufacture nuclear arms,” he said.
“What do they need thousands of centrifuges for?” he continued. “For what do they need the tons of enriched uranium? Only to produce nuclear weapons. This capability needs to be denied them.”
His words came shortly after Yediot Aharonot published excerpts of an interview to run Friday with Uzi Eilam, who headed the IAEC from 1976-1985. He said Iran’s nuclear program was a decade away from being operational, and he did not know whether Tehran even wanted a bomb.
“Words and threats about attacking Iran were harsh words that did not help,” Eilam said. “We do not need to be at the forefront on this.”
Eilam said that from a practical point of view, Iran’s nuclear installations were spread out and buried under tons of earth, concrete and steel. An attack on Iran’s nuclear installations, he said, was not a matter of a single blow, but rather of “starting a war.”
Eilam was a central figure in Israel’s missile and nuclear developmental programs.
“Netanyahu uses the Iranian threat for all kinds of political goals,” he said. “These declarations – in the final result – only needlessly worry Israeli citizens.
One official in the Prime Minister’s Office responded by saying that Netanyahu’s speech to the World War II veterans was his response to Eilam’s criticism.
Eilam has voiced similar criticism in the past. In a January 2009 Sunday Times article he was quoted as saying Israel’s “intelligence community are spreading frightening voices about Iran.”
He was quoted as saying that the “defense establishment is sending out false alarms in order to grab a bigger budget,” while politicians were using Iran to divert attention from domestic problems.
“Those who say that Iran will obtain a bomb within a year’s time, on what basis did they say so?” he asked at the time. “Where is the evidence?” Eilam, in a memoir he published, said he opposed the Israeli attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981. At the time he was the head of the IAEC.