Economic sanctions won't stop Iran's determined efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and Israel needs to prepare for the worst existential threat in its history, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said Sunday.
"A state like Iran which has accumulated just in the past two years $150 billion beyond what it planned due to the rise in oil prices is not so sensitive to economic sanctions," Halutz said in an address at Tel Aviv University.
"In general, [for] people who are used to eating olives and pita bread, sanctions which won't let them have cream with their caviar is not something that is too bothersome," Halutz added.
"We cannot sit by apathetically in the face of this development," Halutz continued. "We must concentrate all our mental and other faculties so that if we conclude that there is no other way, then we should have in our hands various capabilities to defend ourselves and also to strike back," Halutz said.
Speaking at a memorial for the 24th anniversary of the death of former IDF chief and defense minister Moshe Dayan, Halutz said that even if Iran did get the bomb he did not expect them to use it directly against Israel. The concern was that they could pass it on to terrorists.
"This needs to concern the entire world," said the former air force commander. "The Iranians pose an existential threat to Israel. This is due to the combination of an irrational leadership with non-conventional capabilities," the IDF chief said.
Halutz said this was driven home by the comments of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who declared it was his agenda to destroy the state of Israel.
"One could ask: 'Why did he make these statements now since the elections have passed and he doesn't need to win any more votes?'" Halutz said. What this demonstrates about the "fanatical band sitting over there is that they want to wipe Israel off the map and for this they need nuclear weapons," he added.
Despite the dire warnings over Iran, Halutz said ironically that Israel is now enjoying one of the most secure periods in its 57-year history.
"I believe that our strategic reality at the moment is the best ever for the state," Halutz said, comparing it to the period following the 1967 Six Day War when Israel vanquished the Arab armies.
"When I look about, I find it difficult to see an Arab coalition rising against Israel," Halutz said. "There is no unifying interest today for the Arab nations as there [was] in the past."
He praised the peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt, regardless of their relative warmth. The Iraqi military was eliminated, he added, and Israel is stronger than any of its enemies with no foreseeable enemy coalition forming against the Jewish state.
Israel's main security problem was terrorism and Iranian efforts to get non-conventional weapons, Halutz said.
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