The Israel Air Force’s new chief said Monday that “There is no room in the Middle East for the weak ” and stressed the force’s readiness for “coping with any scenario in the event that Israel is forced to draw its sword,” further raising speculations that a possible military strike against Iran’ s nuclear facilities is in the making.
“No one can tell how the storm hitting this region will end. Israel is in the midst of a fog of uncertainty… A strong army is the insurance policy for a Jewish and democratic state,” Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel said at an official installation ceremony held at the southern Hazor Air Base, adding that the Air Force is “strong and prepared to carry out any mission it would be tasked with.”
Eshel, 53, took command from Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan, who is retiring after 37 years in flight overalls.
The remarks come against a sharp debate by the country’s leaders on if, when and how it might have to unleash its air power against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.
Israel, Western leaders and the UN nuclear watchdog believe that Tehran, which has repeatedly threatened to destroy the Jewish state, is clandestinely trying to build a nuclear weapon.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have more than hinted recently that Israel is geared up for a military strike if the P5+1 talks fail to convince Tehran to halt its nuclear fuel enrichment.
During the vetting process for the next IAF commander, both Netanyahu and Barak sought to assess the candidates’ opinions as to the viability of such an air strike and its chances for succeeding.
Eshel has so far declined to publicly comment on a possible strike in Iran.
“The decision to strike is up to the government and the military would provide it with a ‘tool box’ of options… We have the ability to hit any adversary very, very hard,” he said in a briefing to foreign correspondents and diplomats in Jerusalem last year.