"A nuclear Iran," the Kadima MK said, "is an intolerable threat to Israel – and Israel must do everything so that Iran will never have such a bomb."
A nuclear Iran has a long line of consequences, the first of which is not necessarily a firing of a nuclear weapon at Tel Aviv. "There's no chance in the world that if Iran will have a bomb the Arab Sunni states won't follow suit," Ben-Israel said. "Already, all Arab states termed 'moderate' have announced that they are commencing their own peaceful nuclear programs, out of fear from the Shiite revolution.
"That's because Iran, in addition to its aim to destroy Israel, publicly declares its wish to export the Shiite revolution. Therefore, it is only a matter of time before they have a bomb," He said. On the other hand, if Iran abandons the project, "it's fair to assume that Arab states will sit quietly, as they have done until today."
The next implication is the end of the Israeli ambiguity: "If the day comes in which Iran has a nuclear bomb, and other Arab states in the area follow it – Israel will have to end its ambiguity on the issue. From this point, not much time will pass until the Middle East will not only be unstable, but it will also be saturated with nuclear weapons," the MK said.
"In such a state, where a war breaks out here every two days due to lack of understandings – one can only guess who will be the first to fire this weapon," he said.
'Similar response will come down on their heads'
Ben-Israel, who carried out a series of operational security roles, as well as intelligence and development roles, especially in the Air Force, completely rejected talk of 'mutual nuclear deterrence' between Iran and Israel.
"When one thinks about it to the end, it's not reasonable. There are not two actors here but several actors, in an unstable region, and there is a state willing to pay an international price to advance its plan to wipe Israel off the map. Therefore, the day after is the worst day for Israel," he said.
The bomb, Professor Ben-Israel maintained, doesn't even have to be launched by the Iranians. "It's enough that they think that this bomb neutralizes the effect of the Israeli bomb – and then they will want to maybe exploit the enormous numerical advantage of the Arab and Muslim world around us, for example, in order to try and attack Israel in other ways," he said.
"They can do what they've always done: Attack Israel, perhaps through HIzbullah, Syria, and others. Another option is that Iran won't take the risk of directly firing on Israel, so that it does not absorb a direct response, but could take (the nuke) from the facility and give it to a terrorist organization, which can blow it up at the Haifa port, for example. Just like they gave 11,000 rockets to Hizbullah."
Ben-Israel said the Iranian threat of firing "11,000 rockets in a minute" was unrealistic. "No state in the world can do that, not the US, so let's not give them that kind of credit. They don't even have hundreds of missiles that can reach here, maybe only dozens. And even if they launch dozens of bombs, most of them will be taken down by the Arrow (anti-missile shield)," he said.
"Therefore, no more than a few dozen bombs will penetrate the defensive system. And beyond that, after the first or second are fired – and it will take them around ten minutes to arrive – a similar response will come down on their heads."
Asked what the damage of a nuclear attack would be, Ben-Israel said, "Does a bomb destroy a country? Of course not. An atomic bomb of this type – a 10 – 20 kiloton bomb, such as the type that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, causes death in the 500 to 1000 meter radius around the fall zone if it fell on Tel Aviv. That may sound like a big relief, but it isn't.
"In Tel Aviv, 20 to 30,000 people live in a 500 meter radius, a number equivalent to the total count of casualties in all of Israel's wars until today. And all of this in one bomb. In any case, just like earthquakes we've seen, it doesn't destroy a state in which seven million people live. A hydrogen bomb, for example, has a more explosive force, but Iran hasn't even begun to go in that direction," he said.
How close is Iran to the bomb, and the minute it reaches the ability to produce it, what is the expected rate?
"If 3,000 centrifuges work for a full year, they make one bomb. Therefore, if the Iranians will reach the ability to run 3,000 centrifuges, they can produce one bomb a year. In the meantime, they haven't been so successful in running them, despite the declarations, for all sorts of reasons – the world isn't providing them with the materials, machines, and technologies needed for this. The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) estimates that Iran is 3 – 8 years away from the bomb. I think 3 to 5 years is a reasonable estimate."