JERUSALEM - Even if Iran obtains nuclear weapons it will not use them against Israel or other countries in the Middle East, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak told the Haaretz newspaper on Thursday.
The views expressed in the interview with the Israeli daily appear to put the defence minister at odds with many in the Israeli military and political establishment, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Iran will not drop a nuclear bomb on Israel, "not on us, not on any other neighbour," Barak told Haaretz. "I don't think in terms of panic," he added.
Israeli politicians including Netanyahu have repeatedly raised the spectre of a nuclear attack by Iran to call for international pressure to halt the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme.
Tehran insists the programme is solely for civil nuclear power and medical purposes, but Israel says it masks a weapons drive.
Barak said there was little sign that Tehran would use weapons even if they obtained them, but he also described the Iranian regime as unpredictable, acknowledging it was often difficult to tell how they would behave.
"I dont think that anyone can say responsibly that these ayatollahs, if they have nuclear weapons, are something you can rely on, like the Politburo or the Pentagon," he said.
"I don't think they will do anything so long as they are in complete control of their senses," he added.
"But to say that somebody really knows and understands what will happen with such a leadership sitting in a bunker in Tehran and thinking that it's going to fall in a few days and it is capable of doing it? I don't know what it would do."
Barak criticised statements, including by Netanyahu, comparing the threat Iran poses to Israel with the situation that faced German Jews in 1938, on the eve of the outbreak of World War II.
"I don't like the comparison with what happened in 1938. I don't think this is the same, because what is the conclusion of what happened? What should a Jew who found himself in 1938 Germany have done? In retrospect, he would have fled. I think it's the opposite here. I will not flee anywhere," he said.