In a Kol Israel interview from Turkey, Thursday, Feb. 16, the defense minister’s pronouncement contradicted every reliable evaluation, including those of Military Intelligence Chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi on Feb. 2 and his predecessor Amos Yadlin who wrote on Jan. 26 that Iran had passed the point of no return four or five years ago. But his words were a perfect fit for the recent assertions by US President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that Israel had not yet made up its mind to attack Iran.
Kochavi’s information was detailed: He reported that Iran had amassed 10 kilos of 20-percent enriched uranium and four tons of uranium enriched to 3.5 percent. In his view, nothing remains to stop Iran building a bomb but a decision by its ruler. Once taken, Iran’s nuclear program could produce its first bomb or warhead by the end of this year or early 2013 and four or five by 2015.
The defense minister backtracked on a second issue: While noting that Iran was scattering or burying its nuclear facilities to “impede a surgical strike,” he avoided his previous estimate that no more than three to six months were left before all those facilities had been hidden in what he himself called “zones of immunity.”
full article here
So what does this mean? My guess is that this was not so much a changing of mind but Israel's way of doing two things:
1. O and many of his government - as well as leaders in other countries - believe that the sanctions are now working and that Iran is willing to talk as long as they save face in doing it. The head of Iran does not want to be perceived by his country's citizens as bowing to the chief Satan and little Satan (US & Israel). What he will require is a resolution that will make him look powerful and victorious in talks with the rest of the world involving the nuclear issue. By Barak begrudgingly clarifying their evaluation of the matter it tells the other countries they have some time to allow sanctions to crush the internal works of Iran and get dialogue going without the worry that overnight Israel unilaterally attacks Iran making their overtures and any dialogue worthless.
2. Building on #1 this is yet another way that Israel is going to show that Iran is actually stalling and has no serious desire to work with the Satans of the world. This in Israel's eyes will be the final period of grace given and last chance for so-called diplomacy to resolve the Iran nuclear issue.