A senior Israeli official signaled on Saturday that there would be no unilateral war on Iran in coming weeks, saying international pressure and fear of military strikes had kept Tehran's controversial nuclear program in check.
Head of the Defense Ministry's Political-Security Bureau Amos Gilad spoke with Channel 2 at length on Saturday about Iran's nuclear program, which many in the West suspect is geared toward producing nuclear weapons, despite Tehran's denials. He also touched on the violent outrage sweeping the Muslim world in response to an American film trailer mocking the Prophet Muhammad.
Speculation that Israel might attack Iranian atomic facilities in a unilateral move in the near future has soared due to an unusually public dispute with the U.S. about how much time to allow for negotiations and sanctions to run their course before considering military action.
When asked whether the current Jewish High Holy Days, which end on Oct. 9, would be "quiet in terms of any initiative taken by Israel," Gilad replied, "What Israel will or won't do — I recommend that this remain behind closed doors. But to the extent it is possible to foresee through the end of the holidays, it looks as if it will be quiet, if you exclude all kinds of events like some maniac [act] or hate crimes that can set the entire world on fire."
Gilad played down the reported spat between Jerusalem and Washington, saying that Israel and its foreign allies were in agreement that "the Iranian threat is a central threat" and that awareness of this cooperation had prevented Tehran from producing weapons.
"For now, as long as there is this unanimity, it seems to me that even the Iranians understand this and are not crossing the line ... to build a nuclear bomb, not because they are merciful toward us, not because they like us, but because they fear a military or other response," Gilad said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta over the weekend called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's demand for the U.S. to set red lines on Iran a move that would put the U.S. in a corner. He said that leaders of nations do not have "a bunch of little red lines that determine their decisions."
In response to Panetta's remark, a senior official in the Israeli government said Saturday night that Netanyahu's demand that the U.S. set red lines beyond which it would vow to attack Iran were meant to push Iran into a corner, not the U.S.
Netanyahu responded to the U.S. statements, saying that "not setting a red line increases the chance for war, because it gives Iran the feeling it can operate without any interference."
Iran says its uranium enrichment program, which could potentially yield the material for a nuclear warhead, is designed purely for energy production and medical needs.