Defense Min. Benny Gantz presents Iran attack timeline to US officials

A senior diplomatic source said on Friday that the Americans did not voice opposition to the Israeli preparations when presented with the date by Gantz. 

 Defense Minister Benny Gantz and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin meet outside the Pentagon, December 9, 2021. (photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin meet outside the Pentagon, December 9, 2021.
(photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz updated American officials that he has set a deadline for when the IDF will need to complete preparations for an attack against Iran.

The Americans did not voice opposition to the Israeli preparations when presented with the date by Gantz on Thursday, a senior diplomatic source said the following day.

“There was no veto,” the source said.

The IDF has intensified planning for an attack against its arch enemy. Last week, American sources revealed that Austin and Gantz were expected to discuss joint military preparations, and a report on Kan said that the IDF was planning a massive mock strike aerial drill for this summer.

Gantz met with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday. The conversations focused mainly on Iran and its continued pursuit of nuclear capability, but some of the US officials also brought up Israeli settlement activity and their concern that building in the West Bank will block a future two-state solution.

 US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin welcomes Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz during an enhanced honor cordon arrival ceremony at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia, US, December 9, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/KEN CEDENO) US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin welcomes Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz during an enhanced honor cordon arrival ceremony at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia, US, December 9, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/KEN CEDENO)

Jerusalem consulted with Washington on two previous strikes on Iran: one in June against a facility producing centrifuges in Karaj, and another on a missile production site outside Tehran, The New York Times reported.

US President Joe Biden asked his National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan two months ago to review plans to attack Iran if diplomatic efforts fail, as well as the possibilities for increasing sanctions, according to the Times.

That leak comes as the US and Israel are increasingly at odds in their evaluation of the Iranian threat. Israeli officials continue to be deeply concerned that in the recently resumed negotiations in Vienna, Washington will seek an interim deal lifting sanctions on Tehran while insufficiently restricting its nuclear program.

Blinken spoke with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Friday.

According to the State Department, they discussed topics “including the enduring importance of the US-Israel bilateral relationship, Israeli-Palestinian issues, and regional developments, such as our shared conviction that Iran must not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.”

According to the Foreign Ministry, Lapid told Blinken that “even if there is a return to negotiations, sanctions on Iran must not be lifted. The money the Iranians will receive will reach our doorstep in the form of terrorism and missiles.”The conversation was “warm, productive and open,” Israel’s MFA said in a readout, and included topics such as “joint efforts to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state, Minister Lapid’s visit to Cairo, the arrival of new US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, and expanding the circle of peace.”

State Department Spokesperson Ned Price commented on Thursday on US-Israel discussions of alternative ways to counter the Iranian nuclear threat if negotiations in Vienna collapse.

“I wouldn’t want to speak to what we might be contemplating if the path to diplomacy toward a mutual return to compliance isn’t viable in the near term,” Price said. “But we are discussing those alternatives. We are discussing those options with our close partners, with our close allies, and that includes with the Israelis. We have already had good discussions with the Israelis about the path forward, and how we can work together to ensure that Iran is never able to acquire a nuclear weapon.”

Gantz addressed the Israel American Council summit in Miami on Friday, saying that Iran is a great threat to Israel but first and foremost to the world.

“This is why the international community, with US leadership, must stand together and act forcefully against Iran’s hegemonic aspirations and nuclear program and restore stability for the sake of global peace,” he said.The consultations in Washington were “excellent,” the defense minister said, and they included ways to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East.

Gantz said he spoke with the Americans about how to keep the pressure on Iran with the aim of keeping them away from a nuclear capability, and to take advantage of Iranian vulnerabilities – particularly economic – that could be used to persuade them to suspend nuclear activity.

His impression from the meetings in Washington was that the fate of the negotiations in Vienna would be determined in the near future. “I think that in the coming weeks we will know where we stand,” Gantz said.