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Israeli military chief Gantz: Iran has not decided to make a nuclear weapon

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — Iran has not yet decided whether to manufacture a nuclear bomb, the head of Israel’s military said.

The Islamic Republic "is going step by step to the place where it will be able to decide whether to manufacture a nuclear bomb," Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz told Haaretz in an Independence Day interview. "It hasn’t yet decided whether to go the extra mile." 

Gantz said this year is critical in Iran’s nuclear development but "not necessarily ‘go, no-go,’ " for an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear sites. 

"We’re in a period when something must happen: Either Iran takes its nuclear program to a civilian footing only or the world, perhaps we too, will have to do something," he said. "We’re closer to the end of the discussions than the middle."

Gantz said he believes that international diplomatic and economic sanctions are beginning to have an effect. The United States and Israel are "partners" in dealing with the problem, he added. 

"We and the United States have a large common alignment of interests and relations, but America looks at America and Israel [looks at] Israel. We aren’t two oceans away from the problem — we live here with our civilians, our women and our children, so we interpret the extent of the urgency differently," Gantz said. "America says its piece openly, and what it says in the media is also said behind closed doors. It cannot be translated into lights, red or green, because no one is asking them anything in that regard."

On the subject of his dismissal of Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner for hitting a left-wing activist in the face with his rifle, Gantz decried its politicization and said he made his decision and "it’s behind me."

"I don’t understand what the right is defending, what the left is attacking. Who turned it into a political matter?" he asked. "Do you have to be a religious right-winger with a kippah in order to be resolute? Do you have to be a leftist in order to be principled? Where did that idiocy come from?

"Eisner made a professional error and a specific ethical mistake. The lieutenant colonel erred and failed, and it’s done and dusted."

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