Israel said to approve $1.5 billion budget for potential strike on Iran

Sum said to include funds for aircraft, intel-gathering drones and unique armaments needed for attack; report comes days after US announces successful test of new bunker buster

By TOI STAFFToday, 12:58 am  

An Israeli Air Force F-15 takes off during the Blue Flag air exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 8, 2017. (Jack Guez/AFP)

An Israeli Air Force F-15 takes off during the Blue Flag air exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 8, 2017. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Israel has approved a budget of some 5 billion shekels ($1.5 billion) to be used to prepare the military for a potential strike against Iran’s nuclear program, Channel 12 reported Monday.

The NIS 5 billion budget is made up of NIS 3 billion from the previous budget and an additional NIS 2 billion from the next budget slated to be approved by the government in November,

It includes funds for various types of aircraft, intelligence-gathering drones and unique armaments needed for such an attack, which would have to target heavily fortified underground sites, the unsourced report said.

The report comes days after the US Air Force announced that it had carried out a successful test of its new “bunker buster,” the GBU-72 Advanced 5K Penetrator. The 5,000-pound bomb could be used as a tool to strike Iranian nuclear sites.

Crucially, the GBU-72 is designed to be carried by a fighter jet or a heavy bomber. Israel does not have bombers capable of carrying the massive bunker busters in the current US arsenal.Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top storiesNewsletter email addressGET ITBy signing up, you agree to the terms

A smaller bunker buster bomb, the GBU-28, was secretly sold to Israel in 2009, though it is not thought to have the ability to penetrate Iran’s Fordo nuclear facility, which is buried deep under a mountain.

The American test was based on experience gained by Israel in its bombing of Hamas’s underground tunnel network in Gaza during last May’s war, Channel 12 said.

The network speculated that in publicizing its 35,000 foot-drop of the bunker-buster at Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base, the US is seeking to warn Iran not to stay away from negotiations at Vienna aimed at reviving the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Iran walked away from indirect talks with the US last June and elected as president ultraconservative hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, who has spoken out against the JCPOA, in the interim.IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi during a graduation ceremony at the National Security College in Glilot, central Israel, on July 14, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Last month, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi told the Walla news site that Israel has “greatly accelerated” preparations for action against Iran’s nuclear program.

Kohavi said that “a significant chunk of the boost to the defense budget, as was recently agreed, was intended for this purpose. It’s a very complicated job, with much more intelligence, much more operational capabilities, much more armaments. We’re working on all these things.”

Kohavi had publicly declared in January that the IDF was preparing fresh “operational plans” for a potent military strike, and in August that Iran’s nuclear progress has prompted the IDF “to speed up its operational plans,” with a fresh budget to do so.

In his speech to the UN General Assembly last month, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett declared that “Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment, and so has our tolerance. Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning… We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”This Nov. 4, 2020, satellite photo by Maxar Technologies shows Iran’s Fordo nuclear site (Maxar Technologies via AP)

The Biden administration says it is still seeking a joint US-Iranian return to compliance with the JCPOA, while acknowledging that it will not wait indefinitely for Tehran to return to the negotiation table.

If it fails to do so, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid that “every option” will be on the table — an apparent uptick in rhetoric after US President Joe Biden told Bennett in August that Washington was willing to consider “other options” if the JCPOA cannot be revived.

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