Ben-Israel, who as an air force general took part in the planning of the 1981 air raid on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor, admitted it might be "more difficult" to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.
He told SPIEGEL that the dispute over Iran's nuclear activities could be solved "by other means" and advocated much tougher sanctions against Iran. "Only once the critical point has been reached will we choose the final option."
The former general acknowledged that the Israeli air force had recently carried out maneuvers, which he said were to prepare for the eventuality that the international community failed to stop the Iranian nuclear activities. "It was not the first such exercise, and it won't be the last," he said.
In October Israel admitted that it had carried out an air strike on the Al Kibar complex in Syria. United Nations weapons inspectors spent four days last week in Syria to investigate whether the country has been involved in the production of nuclear weapons. The inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency said at the end of their trip that the investigation had proved inconclusive.
According to intelligence reports seen by SPIEGEL the facility at Al Kibar was the site of a secret military project where North Korean, Syrian and Iranian scientists had been working side by side to produce weapons-grade plutonium.
SPIEGEL ONLINE will publish the interview with Isaac Ben-Israel next week.
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