WASHINGTON – IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, who is on an official visit to the United States, told his American colleagues Monday that the Iranian threat could still be handled via sanctions, but stressed that an Israeli military strike was a "serious" option.
Ashkenazi reportedly stressed that any final decision pertaining to a possible Israeli course of action against Iran would be made by the government and not by him, adding that as head of the Israeli Defense Forces he has been asked to come up with various contingencies and that a military operation was a concrete possibility.
However, he did note that economic sanctions on Iran remain the preferable option at this time.
The IDF chief met with White House National Security Adviser James Jones and the two also discussed January's Israeli offensive in Gaza and its results. The implementation of UN Resolution 1701, which followed the Second Lebanon War, was also addressed in the meeting.
The Israeli general's itinerary also included a meeting with Dennis Ross, US President Barack Obama's advisor on Iran. Israel's official position is that the US administration's planned talks with Tehran begin no later than the coming summer, after the Iranian presidential elections; and that they must adhere to a strict timetable.
Israel has repeatedly stated that it too would prefer to apply economic sanctions to military ones, but that all options remain viable. Ashkenazi's visit to the Pentagon also included meetings with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Later Monday evening, Ashkenazi decided to cut his visit to the US short, in order to attend the government's meeting Tuesday on the prisoner exchange deal meant to secure the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
IDF Spokesman Brigadier-General Avi Benayahu said that "the decision stemmed from his desire to attend meetings regarding Shalit's retrieval, but it is not to be taken as a reflection of any possible outcome of the negotiations."