Israel Revisiting Military Options Regarding Iran, Newspaper Says
Israel is refreshing its military plans to confront Iran, an Israeli newspaper reported Thursday [Jan. 14], as the government readies itself to deal with possible differences of policy with the incoming Biden administration.
A front-page article in Israel's largest-circulation daily said the military is crafting three options to "undermine Iran's nuclear efforts or, if need be, counter Iranian aggression, which will soon be presented to the government".
The paper, Israel Hayom, did not cite any sources. But it went on to quote Defense Minister Benny Gantz as saying: "Israel needs to have a military option on the table."
Israel has long had plans in place to counter Iran. The article appeared designed to signal that these were now being updated. Iran has begun expanding its nuclear program in recent weeks in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal. Israel has vowed not to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
During the previous Democratic administration of Barack Obama, which championed diplomacy with Iran, Israel occasionally threatened preventive airstrikes against Iranian nuclear sites, but this would be difficult without some sort of US military participation.
Recently, Israel normalized its relations with United Arab Emirates and Bahrian, two Gulf Arab countries, that could provide a shorter route to Israeli aircraft in any attack on Iran. But it is not clear what degree of cooperation exists between Israel and these countries, who are potentially vulnerable to Iranian retaliation.
Israeli officials have voiced hope that Biden will maintain Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign on Tehran, involving tough sanctions, until the Iranian nuclear program is dismantled.
But one of them, Finance Minister Israel Katz, acknowledged on Army Radio: "There are disputes (with Biden) regarding the perspective on Iran, and of course that will prove challenging." Katz sounded encouraged by Biden's intent to include Iran's ballistic missile program in any re-negotiation of the nuclear deal.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told Ynet TV the Netanyahu government was not yet in formal dialogue with the incoming administration. But asked if Israel was trying through informal channels to sway Biden on Iran, Cohen said: "Yes. There are efforts."
With reporting by Reuters