Speaking at a conference of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, Eiland says Israel cannot defeat Iran's regime via a military operation.
"To our regret, there is no Israeli military capability that would enable us to reach a situation whereby Iran's nuclear capabilities are destroyed without the possibility of recovery," he said. "The maximal achievement that Israel can accomplish is to disrupt and suspend Iran's nuclear program."
"The million dollar question" is the extent of a sufficient suspension period, Eiland said.
The former general said that Israel "cannot defeat Iran," adding that an Israeli military operation or aerial strike cannot force Iran to capitulate or end its nuclear development efforts.
Price of failureEiland added that any operation against Iran would require Israeli coordination with the United States, mostly in strategic terms.
"It is completely clear that if an Israeli operation in Gaza requires certain level of coordination with the US, this is certainly the case with an operation in Iran, where the implications beyond Israel are of course far reaching," he said.
The former general emphasized that the primary risk in undertaking a military operation against Iran is its potential failure. "If you undertake a failed military operation, you pay three-fold: firstly, you didn't succeed in hitting what you wanted, secondly, you've hurt your deterrence capabilities, and thirdly, you're perceived as the aggressor," he said.
"Iran is not Iraq of 1981 and not even Syria of 2007. It is likely that an attack on Iran would garner a widespread response not merely by Iran, but also other nations in the region," he said. An additional danger, added Eiland, is that Iran would attack not only Israeli targets but also American targets in the region.
The window of opportunity for an attack on Iran, as perceived by Eiland, is "short-lived." He predicted such a possibility would be feasible between the summer of 2009 until the summer of 2011. This timetable will necessarily influence the next government's decision on which actions to take, he said.