Top Israeli Officials Debate Merits of Iran Strike


Washington, Aug. 17 — Following months of speculation, top Israeli officials are speaking out about the benefits of an attack on Iran's nuclear program even if it only leads to a temporary setback.

"One, two, three, four years are a long time in the Middle East," Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren said in a speech Wednesday. “Look what's happened in the last year,” said Oren, referring to the upheaval in the Arab world. “In the past, we have operated on the assumption that we can only gain a delay.” That was the assumption when Israel knocked out Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981, said Oren, adding, “To this day, Iraq does not have a nuclear weapon.”

Oren reportedly was echoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments when speaking about attacking Iran’s nuclear program, which may have enough material for at least five nuclear weapons, according to one recent report. Iran insists its nuclear program is intended only for peaceful, civilian purposes.

Netanyahu reportedly said in recent meetings that delaying the Iranian nuclear program could provide time for a regime change and pave the way for other changes, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The Islamic republic refuses to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors access to its nuclear facilities and has been pursuing a nuclear program despite international sanctions. Iran is the only country in the United Nations that has called for the destruction of another member-country. Iran also has denied the Holocaust and trains, funds and arms proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, addressing the Knesset Thursday, appeared to back Netanyahu when he said a nuclear Iran would be far more dangerous than a strike and that a decision must be made now.

Meanwhile, Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an interview on Israeli TV Thursday that Israel could not pull off a strike against Iran without U.S. assistance and didn’t believe it would carry out an operation before the U.S. presidential election in November.

Ultimately, Israel’s decision on a strike is up to Netanyahu and his cabinet; if both the prime minister and defense minister support it, the rest of the cabinet would be likely to follow.

Iranian officials have been ramping up their anti-Israel rhetoric recently in anticipation of al-Quds Day today, the last Friday during the month of Ramadan. The event was created by Iran in 1979 and calls for the destruction of Israel.

Today in Iran, millions of people demonstrated in the streets, shouting “Death to Israel.” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once again called for Israel’s destruction and said al-Quds Day is a time for unity among all human beings to remove the “Zionist black stain.”

Israel’s existence, the Iranian president said, is an “insult to all humanity” and a crime against humanity. Confronting Israel, he said, is an effort to “protect the dignity of all human beings.”

Said Ahmadinejad: “The Zionist regime is a tool to dominate the Middle East,” and the world powers are “thirsty for Iranian blood.”

On Wednesday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said "the fake Zionist (regime) will disappear from the landscape of geography,” according to The Jerusalem Post.

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