Says Israel Must Prepare for Significant Attack on Iran
Edited by: Fern Sidman
Iran is “days or weeks” away from enriching uranium to the 90% military grade level required for the production of nuclear weapons and Israel should prepare for a significant attack on the rogue country, a former top official with Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency warned on Saturday, the Washington Times reported.
Zohar Palti, a former intelligence director with Mossad, who recently retired from a 40-year career in Israel’s security establishment, said Israel’s military, has the capability to launch a successful strike on Iran’s nuclear plants. He noted that receiving American permission to conduct an attack on Iran would not be necessary considering the severity of the circumstances but that Israeli government officials and defense experts will have to make “serious decisions” in the near future.
“One of the things that the Americans appreciate most is our ability to make our own decisions, to ensure our security,” he added, referencing Israeli strikes on nuclear facilities in Syria and Iraq that it had carried out alone without active American support, as was reported by the Times of Israel.
Speaking to Times of Israel political correspondent Tal Schneider at an event in Ramat Hasharon, Palti said Iran “is at a more advanced level than I can ever remember when it comes to uranium enrichment.
“They are days or weeks away from enriching uranium to 90 percent, which is military-grade,” he said.
While speaking at the event that was hosted by The Times of Israel, Palti said, “I’m not implying that Israel is capable. I’m saying it is.” He acknowledged that enriching uranium to the 90% level doesn’t mean Iran is immediately able to construct a nuclear weapon “but, it’s very bad and we’ve never been closer to it.”
The Times of Israel also reported that Iran’s state media announced last month that it had begun producing enriched uranium at 60% purity at the country’s underground Fordo nuclear plant, in addition to enrichment to the same level at a plant in Natanz that it said had begun in 2019.
Enrichment to 60% purity is one short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%, TOI reported. Nonproliferation experts have warned in recent months that Iran now has enough 60%-enriched uranium to reprocess into fuel for at least one nuclear bomb.
Continuing concerns over Iran’s nuclear ambitions come as Israel prepares to return former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to office, the Washington Times reported. He will be at the head of a coalition of right-wing parties in Israel that are expected to take a hard line on a number of domestic and international issues.
TOI also reported Palti noted that the heated political atmosphere did not lend itself to the sort of societal cohesion needed for Israel to deal with a wartime scenario.
“If we do reach such a scenario… it won’t be a matter of politics or religion. Lebanon has more than 100,000 rockets and Iran possesses precision-guided missiles. The Israeli home front will suffer… Israel will need to function as one fist,” he said, as was reported by the TOI.
Last month, President Biden let slip to a group of Iranian-American protestors that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran nuclear deal isn’t going to happen, the Washington Times reported. “It’s dead, but we are not going to announce it,” Biden said in a video that surfaced in early November.
The comments from Palti marked one of the first times he has publicly addressed the Iranian issue since stepping down from his position in the Mossad, according to the TOI report.
The former Mossad intelligence chief added that policymakers did not have the luxury of dealing with the Iranian issue as disconnected from other regional security concerns.
“Iran is not a standalone issue,” Palti told the Times of Israel. “Everything is connected. We can’t make progress on the Iranian issue without noticing what happens in our region, in the West Bank, on the issue of maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount and protecting the rights of minorities.”
He also issued a warning against inflaming tensions atop the Temple Mount, saying that Israel’s relationship with Jordan is its greatest strategic asset, the TOI reported.
According to Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the Treasury Department who now works at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Israel’s decades-long peace with Jordan is unraveling, a development that threatens to upset a fragile regional stability that is being challenged by countries like Iran, Russia, and China, as was reported in the Washington Free Beacon last week.
“Since 2020, if not before then, the Jordanian peace has turned decidedly cold,” Schanzer said, according to the WFB report.
The WFB also noted that while the relationship has been breaking down behind the scenes for some time, Jordan also began to publicly war with Israel in recent years, by refusing to sign the Abraham Accords peace agreements, attacking incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and threatening to fully abrogate the peace deal it signed with Israel in 1994.
Schanzer’s findings, published in a report two weeks ago, indicate the United States could be faced with a looming crisis in the Middle East that threatens to upset nearly 30 years of stability between the two former enemies. The fracture between Israel and Jordan could also empower American enemies like Russia, China, and Iran, which are all working in tandem to erode U.S. influence in the region, the WFB reported.
“Israel perceives the creation of a Palestinian state to be a security threat, while King Abdullah [Jordan’s leader] sees frustrated Palestinians dismayed by lack of progress toward a Palestinian state as an even bigger security threat to his own hold on power,” said Jim Phillips, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, as was reported by the WFB. “The king seeks to appease Palestinians, who make up roughly half of Jordan’s population, because he faces additional challenges from Islamists who also demonize Israel.”
Schanzer’s findings are likely to distress Jordanian officials, who have cultivated deep ties in Washington, D.C., since the Arab nation announced its peace with Israel in 1994. In many ways, Schanzer told the Washington Free Beacon, this latest analysis shatters long-standing taboos about Jordan’s fracturing peace with Israel that many in the U.S. foreign policy community have tried to ignore.
“I have observed a real reticence in this town to criticize Jordan in recent years,” Schanzer said. “Many believe Amman is both too valuable and too weak to challenge. I refuse to be bound by those constraints. I support Jordan. But I think it can do better.”
“The national security of each of the countries is intertwined,” Palti argued, according to the TOI report. It is in the interest of the State of Israel “for Jordan to be strong and unshakable. We have a strong and serious security system. The next IDF chief of staff, Herzi Halevy, will explain to the cabinet ministers what is at stake and what the meaning of violating the status quo on the Temple Mount is.”
He estimated that “incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu won’t want to change the status quo on the Temple Mount” as well.