In a thinly veiled message to Iran, former Israel Air Force commander Maj. Gen. (res.) Ido Nechushtan on Saturday warned that Israel's attack capabilities must not be "underestimated."
Addressing an event in Beersheba, Nechushtan said, "I wouldn’t underestimate the capacity of the Israeli Air Force to fulfill the missions it is ordered to carry out. And I think I've said enough."
The former air force chief, however, added that a diplomatic resolution to the years-long standoff with Iran over its controversial nuclear program would be preferable to a military strike, and that any attack was likely to only delay the Islamic republic's nuclear program, not eliminate it altogether.
"An attack is a means to an end, and the objective is to prevent an Iranian militarized nuclear program," he said. "Nobody is happy about the idea of a military strike. It is carried out when the alternative is worse. There is no knowing what will happen as a result of a military strike."
Regarding current negotiations between Iran and the West over its nuclear program, Nechushtan expressed skepticism. "We need to make sure the agreement is not eventually to our detriment," he said.
Nechushtan said he believed that Iran currently holds a considerable amount of uranium enriched to 20 percent and a vast number of centrifuges.
"When all the means and engineering know-how required to build a bomb are there -- it takes one year," he said.
Still, even in the event that Iran does succeed in acquiring a nuclear weapon, Nechushtan said he believed not all would be lost.
"If we have reached a point where Iran has nuclear weapons and we are too late, that does not mean it will stay that way forever. We're not there yet."