“In Israeli democracy, as in any democracy, the political echelon is the one that decides and the professional echelon (the military) executes. I have not yet made a decision,” he told Israel’s Channel Two news on Tuesday evening.
He added that the debate in the media about a possible offensive was “harmful” and “not serious”.
The Israeli army chief, Benny Gantz, told reporters in Tel Aviv earlier in the day that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) were ready to attack Iran if ordered to.
“The IDF is ready and prepared for action and as we see it ‘all options are on the table’ is not a slogan, it is a working plan and we are doing it,” he said, referring to a line often repeated by Israeli politicians when discussing Iran.
Panetta is due to meet his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, and Netanyahu during his stay in Israel, part of a broader trip to the Middle East and Africa.
A senior Israeli official on Sunday denied a separate newspaper report that President Barack Obama’s national security adviser had briefed Netanyahu on a U.S. contingency plan to attack Iran should diplomacy fail to curb its nuclear ambitions.