Gantz takes veiled shot at Netanyahu, decries 'hysteria' over Iran deal

Former IDF chief of staff delivered a lecture to a Washington think tank on Friday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shakes hands with then-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz during the 2014 Gaza conflict. (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shakes hands with then-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz during the 2014 Gaza conflict.
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Israel's former top army general said on Friday that there are positive elements of the Iran nuclear deal and that there was no need for "hysteria," a statement that could be interpreted as veiled criticism of his erstwhile boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
For the first time since his discharge from the military, former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Benny Gantz spoke publicly Friday about his thoughts on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the deal negotiated by world powers in which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for a lifting of economic sanctions.
"I do agree [with those who say that] a better deal could have been reached," Gantz told The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "I do see a challenge in the theoretical enrichment rights that the Iranians gained."
The former chief of staff said that he "also saw the half-full part of the glass." He said that keeping the Iranian nuclear program at bay for up to 15 years was "an achievement" and that the successful negotiations averted war.
"I don't think this is bad in and of itself," Gantz said.
Alluding to the Islamic Republic, the retired general added that he "was not naive" and that he "understands whom we are dealing with."
"I understand why the Iranians want to possess nuclear capabilities," he said. Nonetheless, Gantz said that "it's a done deal," hence it's "time to look forward."
Alarmed by what he has consistently maintained is "a historically bad deal," Netanyahu has been criticized in both Israel and the US for the overtly partisan manner in which he has led the opposition to the nuclear deal in Washington, particularly as it relates to his address to a joint session of Congress, a speech that was arranged in collusion with the Republican leadership and without prior knowledge of the White House or State Department.
The former chief of staff called for vigorous inspection of Iranian nuclear installations while also beefing up military defenses to deter Iran from causing havoc in the region.
"We must do everything in our capacity to prevent a nuclear race in the region," Gantz said. "If you could ensure Iran doesn't get [a nuclear weapon], so why would the Saudis need it?"
The former general also called for "reaching out to the Iranian people" in hopes of improving relations.
Gantz is the latest in a line of former defense officials who have called for a more moderate and less vocal approach toward the Obama administration following the consummation of the Iran nuclear accord.
Former Mossad director Meir Dagan criticized the government’s handling of the Iranian nuclear threat, suggesting that Netanyahu is alienating Israel from the United States and President Barack Obama.
Speaking at the Terrorism’s Global Impact summit in Herzliya earlier this month, Dagan said that “it was a strategic decision by Israel to adopt a policy against the United States,” but “the problem is Iran, not President Obama.”
He stated that he is “truly sorry to see this conflict reaching places that I think are against the interest of Israel and against the interests of the United States.”
Dagan has been a frequent critic of Netanyahu and has publicly voiced disagreement with his approach to the Iranian nuclear threat, since finishing his term as Mossad chief in 2011.
“I have to admit I’m not representing the State of Israel and I’m not sharing the point of view of my prime minister, to be honest. It’s not a secret,” he said. “But I think this long approach against the United States – it’s time to end.”