Gantz to Egyptian TV: Israel's objective is that Iran not become nuclear

“It is not just an Israeli interest, It is first and foremost a global and regional interest,” the defense minister said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks to Egyptian TV (photo credit: TAL OZ/DEFENSE MINISTRY/POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks to Egyptian TV
As tensions between Israel and Iran intensify, Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday said options are on the table for making sure the Islamic Republic does not become nuclear.
“Israel has a clear objective: that Iran not become nuclear,” he told Egypt’s al-Ghad news channel. “It is not just an Israeli interest. It is first and foremost a global and regional interest.”
“The IDF and Israel’s defense establishment are holding onto the option of taking action against Iran’s nuclear project if that is what has to be done,” he added. “I hope it doesn’t come to that.”
Gantz echoed remarks made by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi last week, saying a nuclear Iran would lead to a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East.
“The regime is fundamentalist and radical, and it ultimately wants to obtain nuclear capability not just to have it, but primarily for the leverage it would give them in nuclear deterrence,” he said. “I want the public in Iran to understand me: I don’t have anything against them. Iranian citizens deserve a normal life like every other human being. But the regime’s support of terrorism, of Hezbollah, of the Houthis demands action.”
Responding to a question on possible civilian uses for nuclear power, Gantz said: “If you wanted to develop a nuclear capability for medical purposes, would you have to hide it underground? Would you need to deny access to inspectors? We know the Iranians are trying to develop nuclear weapons, and we will not allow that to happen.”
Al-Ghad is a TV station that broadcasts from Cairo. According to the Defense Ministry, it was a first-ever interview of an Israeli minister on the station.
Journalist Nazir Majli interviewed Gantz in his office at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv. The interview focused on several topics, including Iran, the new US administration, challenges and opportunities in the region and the upcoming elections.
When Gantz was asked about a possible future regional war, he replied: “Unfortunately, any future war in our region would involve many civilians; it wouldn’t be just a military-to-military confrontation.
“Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip aim their missiles toward populated areas in Israel, threatening Arab and Jewish communities alike. Eventually, we will have to attack missiles that are being stored within civilian populations. This is verified intelligence, and we saw the repercussions of such reckless practice by Hezbollah in the Port of Beirut.”
ASKED ABOUT intelligence capabilities, Gantz said Israel keeps maintaining “superior intelligence throughout the Middle East and, in certain respects, throughout the world.”
“We do not use it for any purpose other than ensuring Israel’s security,” he said. “When I tell you that I know there are homes in Lebanon that have guest rooms and missile rooms, it’s not just a slogan; it’s the reality on the ground.”
Gantz stressed that US support for Israel goes beyond party lines.
“Our ties run deep and close,” he said. “I’m convinced that we’ll work to make sure that relations with the Biden administration will be just as good as with previous administrations. The cooperation between our defense establishments is excellent at every level, from intel to strategic planning.”
On the incoming administration’s support for normalization, Gantz said: “Normalized, peaceful relations are the best guarantor of regional security and stability. They need to develop into ties between peoples and not just between governments, and I hope that we’ll see progressively more of that.
“Israel has many abilities,” he said. “So do Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, the Gulf states, Egypt and Sudan. There is no reason we can’t enjoy them together. Our nations deserve that.”
When asked about Israel’s relations with the Palestinians and possible negotiations, Gantz said: “There is no reason that the wealth of Arab countries and commercial ties with them can’t be shared by the Palestinians as well.”
“I think we need to be in direct contact,” he said. “It’s all of a 10-minute drive between Jerusalem and Ramallah. It’s unfortunate that we travel so far rather than finding a way to meet with each other right here.”