Israel is not facing an imminent Iranian threat, IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said Thursday, but added that circumstances would change should the Islamic republic obtains a nuclear bomb.
"Israel does not currently face an existential threat. Until Iran has nuclear weapons, this term is irrelevant," Halutz said in interview with Army Radio Thursday.
On the practical level, "the IDF is professionally prepared to utilize its maximum capabilities," the chief of staff said, "but I do not believe the IDF will need to operate against Iran in the near future."
Addressing Iran's progress toward acquiring nuclear capabilities, Halutz said "a distinction must be made between the technical aspect, where the Iranians have so far succeeded in accomplishing what they wanted – and in this respect they are just a few years away, and the issue of acquiring nuclear capabilities. Taking into account the pressures and failed tests, this may take many years."
"I think that considering Iran's determination, we should be talking about the beginning of the next decade," Halutz said.
'Pursue diplomatic efforts'
When asked whether Israel is planning a preemptive strike in order to impede Iran's armament efforts, the army chief said that "when a country faces a threat to its existence, it must take all measures needed to protect itself."
However, Halutz said he believed diplomatic efforts should be pursued first, and that current negotiations with Iran have been well conducted.
"Due to these efforts, Iran's optimal plan was postponed by at least two years," he stated.
Remarking on the current tensions on Israel's northern and southern borders, Halutz said the IDF has no magic formulas to stop the attacks.
"It's true that Qassams were fired in the south, and that Katyusha rockets landed in the north. No plan of action can ensure a 100-percent success rate. Nevertheless, there are plenty of strategies that can significantly reduce the attacks," Halutz said.