The Israeli military chief described the Iranian government as “rational” in interviews published Wednesday and said he did not believe it would build a nuclear bomb, appearing to put some distance between himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. “I believe he would be making an enormous mistake, and I don’t think he will want to go the extra mile,” the chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Force, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, told the left-leaning newspaper Haaretz, referring to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people,” General Gantz added. “But I agree that such a capability, in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists who at particular moments could make different calculations, is dangerous.” The question of whether the Iranians are rational has been a critical focus of international debate over how to handle Tehran’s nuclear program, which the government insists is for civilian purposes. Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly invoked the Holocaust to describe Iranian nuclear capability as an existential threat to Israel, and he told CNN on Tuesday that he would not want to bet “the security of the world on Iran’s rational behavior,” according to The Associated Press. A “militant Islamic regime,” the A.P. quoted him as saying, “can put their ideology before their survival.” In a Holocaust Remembrance Day speech last week, Mr. Netanyahu warned ominously that Iran was “feverishly working to develop atomic weapons,” and he told CNN on Tuesday that “the centrifuges are spinning.” General Gantz, a former paratrooper who took the helm of the military last year, rarely gives lengthy public statements like the ones published here on Israel’s Memorial Day, a traditional period of national self-reflection. Several analysts saw his comments as more in line with the views of Israel’s military and intelligence establishment, including the former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, than with the harder line taken by the government. They were also seen as parallel to the position of his United States counterpart, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “What he said,” said George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in an Associated Press article, is “consistent with the views of the U.S. military leadership, the U.S. intelligence community. What’s interesting is why he said it out loud.” Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-Israeli expert who lives in Tel Aviv, told The Guardian newspaper that Mr. Gantz’s comments were “a welcome development” that “takes the hysterics out of Israel’s public assessment of the Iranian nuclear program.