Netanyahu: Israeli Air Force Will Be ‘Major Part’ of Defense Against Iran
The air force would play a “major part” defending Israel from a nuclear Iran if the military option is executed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a graduation ceremony for the Israeli Air Force on Friday.
“The [nuclear] agreement is fundamentally flawed; it leaves Iran with a path to achieve an arsenal of nuclear bombs within a decade … Whatever happens, Israel will always defend itself and in this the air force will play a major part,” Netanyahu told graduates of the IAF pilot training course at the Hazerim air force base near Beersheba.
Israel has maintained that a military option stays on the table to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. In May, the U.S. approved the sale of advanced bombs, including so-called bunker busters capable of bombing underground and fortified sites, in a bid to allay Israeli fears over the emerging deal with Iran.
Israel used its air force in 1981 for a surprise attack against the Iraqi nuclear reactor called Osiraq, and reportedly bombed a Syrian nuclear site in 2007, though Israeli officials never corroborated those reports.
Earlier this year, the commander of Israel’s air force, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, told Israeli Channel 10 news in a very rare press interview that Israel has been building the capacity to strike Iran’s nuclear sites for over a decade. He said the military option was a “last resort,” but one Israel was prepared to engage.
Netanyahu meanwhile railed against the nuclear deal, accusing Iran of planning to use “many billions” from lifted sanctions to “increase its subversive activities, occupation and terrorism against Israel, the entire Middle East and beyond.”
He said any final nuclear accord would underline the “glaring withdrawal from the red lines that the major powers had previously declared in public.”
Iran has rejected many of the conditions set down in the framework agreement at Lausanne, Switzerland in April, such as addressing international inspectors’ concerns about the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program, freezing all nuclear work over the next ten years and gradually lifting sanctions based on compliance.
Netanyahu’s comments came as Secretary of State John Kerry departed for Vienna on Friday to join negotiators from the American team, as well as from Iran, U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China, as the June 30 deadline for the comprehensive nuclear agreement approaches.
It was his first trip abroad since breaking his knee in a cycling accident earlier this month.