Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Tuesday said Iran “stands just a few weeks away from accumulating fissile material that will be sufficient for a first bomb, holds 60 kilograms of enriched material at 60%, produces metallic uranium at the enrichment level of 20% and prevents the IAEA from accessing its facilities.”

During a speech at the “New Global Order: Implications for Israel” conference held by the Institute of Policy and Strategy at Reichman University, Gantz also cautioned that “Iran continues to accumulate irreversible knowledge and experience in the development, research, production and operation of advanced centrifuges.”

Right now, Iran is making an effort to complete the production and installation of 1,000 advanced IR6 centrifuges at its nuclear facilities, including a new facility being built at an underground site near Natanz.

Gantz also confirmed earlier media reports that back in February, two Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles intercepted over Iraq were on the way to deliver weapons to Palestinian terror factions in Judea and Samaria or the Gaza Strip. According to reports from the time, U.S. Air Force jets intercepted the UAVs.

“One of the lessons of the war in Ukraine is that it is right to exercise economic, political, and if necessary, military force as early as possible and perhaps in this way to prevent wars,” said Gantz. “Today, the price for tackling the Iranian challenge on the global and regional levels are higher than they were a year ago and lower than they will be within a year,” he said.

Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser to U.S. President Joe Biden on international energy, also addressed the conference and discussed Biden’s upcoming visit to Israel.

He said the president is coming to assure the people of Israel and the United States of the continuation of the strong relationship between the two countries “on security, strategic issues and regional matters.”

“We are in historic times with Israel creating a relationship with its neighbors and want to expand that,” he said.

He also spoke about the importance of expanding U.S. and Israeli ties, especially in how it pertains to China and Russia.

“There are remarkable economic ties between our countries that continue to expand into new realms of technology and new realms of economic activity,” he said, adding that “we [will] get into a much more dangerous and volatile global economy over the next several years with the rise of China and with what is happening in Russia now.”

“These are going to generate enormous change in the global economy. Israel and the U.S. need to continue to focus on those areas as well,” he added.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center on March 14, 2022. Photo by Hanna Taieb.

‘It is clear no one will be leaving’

Former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo emphasized the need to finalize Israel’s borders.

“Since 1967,” he said, “there is a unique entity—the only one in the world—that has not defined its own territory,” referring to Israel.

He recalled meeting a regional leader a few years ago who said, “We Muslims have a dream: That one morning we’ll wake up, and there won’t be a single Jew between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.

“Then the leader said, ‘We Muslims have understood that it’s just a dream, and it’ll never happen. And the reason why we’re willing to accept the existence of the Zionist state here is because we have realized that your mind, your capabilities, your power and your contribution to the Middle East [are] huge. And we do not have the ability to make this dream come true.’ ”

But, the leader asked Pardo, “where are you? What do you want? What do you Jews want? What kind of state would you like your grandchildren to live in? Do you want a single state—one state that as I’ve said, you are no longer a priority in—or do you want to find another kind of arrangement? Because it is clear no one will be leaving.”

Pardo said “that is the No. 1 problem that Israel has. And for the last 55 years, it has chosen not to have this conversation.”

He noted there is “no question that Hebron and Bethlehem are part of our national heritage,” but seemed to suggest that Israel cannot control them and should give those areas to the Palestinians.

He also said he believes that it’s “high time to start thinking and to start having this conversation in the media, in the Knesset and anywhere, even in living rooms across the country.”

The former Mossad head appeared to call for an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria saying, “What do we want? Do we want a Jewish state that is democratic, where we have a solid majority to remain within the green line at about 75 percent? Or do we want a different kind of country, a different kind of state in which we will be a minority?”

‘Time is working against the regime’

Also addressing the conference, Meir Litvak of the Alliance Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University seemed to go against public opinion when he said he believes that “no matter how bad the JCPOA agreement was, it gave Israel time and it slowed down the Iranians.”

“As horrific as the Iranian regime is I don’t think that Iran really wants a bomb,” he said. “I think that from the Iranian perspective, it wants to be on the brink of a nuclear bomb.”

“I am not underestimating Iran,” he added. “It is horrible, and its top priority is to destroy us. But I think that at this stage, the Iranian regime has not decided to build a nuclear bomb.”

Litvak said he believes that Tehran is “striving for the capability, not for the bomb itself.”

He suggested that Israel take advantage of Iran’s weak points instead of possibly pushing it to actually build the bomb.

“We also have to look at the problems Iran is suffering from which can serve us,” he said. “It has a problem with its Shi’ite allies. Iraq is critical of Iran. In Lebanon, there is this discomfort with Iranian involvement, and this has implications for Israel. Israel should try to collaborate with parties in Iraq that see Iran as more dangerous than Israel.”

“It is in our interest to take action in an intelligent way to buy time. Time is working against the regime,” he said, due to their domestic issues.

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