Israeli Ex-Atomic Chief: Iran 10 Years Away from Nuclear Weapons

by Jasmin Ramsey

Another Israeli expert has contradicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assessment of Iran’s nuclear program.

“The Iranian nuclear program will only be operational in another 10 years,” said Uzi Eilam, the former head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, during an interview with Ronen Bergman published today in the Israeli daily, Ynet.

“The main issues are still ahead of us, but it is definitely possible to be optimistic. I think we should give the diplomatic process a serious chance, alongside ongoing sanctions,” said Eilam, who has held senior roles in the Israeli defense establishment.

“And I’m not even sure that Iran would want the bomb — it could be enough for them to be a nuclear threshold state — so that it could become a regional power and intimidate its neighbors,” he added.

Netanyahu has implored the international community to set a “red line” on Iran’s nuclear program, which he says is aimed at a nuclear weapon. The Israeli PM used a “cartoon bomb” prop to make this argument during his Sept. 27, 2012 UN General Assembly speech. Two weeks earlier, Netanyahu had said that Iran was 6-7 months from being 90% of the way to building a bomb during an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

The next year, during his Oct. 1 2013 address to the UNGA, Netanyahu admitted that Iran had not crossed the line he had drawn on his diagram, but said Tehran was still positioning itself to be able to create a bomb and that this “vast and feverish effort has continued unabated” under Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Netanyahu has also called the interim deal on Iran’s nuclear program that was reached on Nov. 24, 2013 between Iran and the P5+1 (the U.S., Britain, France, China, and Russia plus Germany) a “historic mistake.”

The Israeli PM, who has been warning about an impending Iranian nuclear bomb for almost 20 years, has been relatively quiet during this year’s round of talks toward a comprehensive deal with Iran, which are set to resume on May 13 in Vienna Austria.

US officials have also detected a shift in Tel Aviv’s position toward a somewhat more reasonable stance, according to a report in Al-Monitor.

Several current and former Israeli defense and intelligence officials have cast doubt on Netanyahu’s statements on Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran, a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, insists is peaceful.

“[Israel’s leadership] presents a false view to the public on the Iranian bomb, as though acting against Iran would prevent a nuclear bomb. But attacking Iran will encourage them to develop a bomb all the faster,” said Israel’s former Internal Security Chief, Yuval Diskin, at an Israeli forum on Apr. 26, 2012. 

“[Iran] is going step by step to the place where it will be able to decide whether to manufacture a nuclear bomb. It hasn’t decided to go the extra mile,” noted the head of the Israeli military, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, during an interview with Haaretz on Apr. 25, 2012.

“I don’t think [Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei] will want to go the extra mile. I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people,” he said.

“[Attacking Iran is] the stupidest thing I have ever heard…It will be followed by a war with Iran,” said Meir Dagan, the former head of the Mossad, during a May 2011 Hebrew University conference.

“It is the kind of thing where we know how it starts, but not how it will end.” he added.

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.



  1. According to some Iran has been on the verge of getting nukes since 1983. Maybe Iran should skip nukes and concentrate on getting chemical weapons as a possible deterrent.

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  2. I wonder if the present heads of these departments feel the same way as the former named ones, because it seems only when they retire, do they voice caution. I suppose that Netanyahoo believes if he continues with his rants, which has been going on for 20 years, without any reality to them, that somehow, he’ll come out to be a winner. Politicians always screw things up when it comes to war, and he’s no exception. Israeli military may enjoy success in the actions taken so far, but as with any military, overconfidence ends up being its downfall. Military Superiority, isn’t a recipe for winning the engagement, as the U.S. can attest to. In Israels case, it could backfire and end up as a defeat, even its destruction. And all for what?

  3. Just shut up and get rid of your 200 purloined nuclear weapons.

  4. When I grab a knife to peel an apple, I find the “capability” to slit your throat. But it doesn’t mean you can deny my right to use a knife to peel an apple for me. That is the story of israel, Iran and Iran’s nuclear “capabilities”.

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