Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said Thursday that all options including military action were on the table in the face of the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Speaking to Israel Radio as crunch talks on Iran’s nuclear program continued in Switzerland, Steinitz said Israel would seek to counter any threat through diplomacy and intelligence but “if we have no choice we have no choice… the military option is on the table.”
Asked about possible US objections to Israeli military action, Steinitz pointed to Israel’s unilateral attack against the Osirak nuclear reactor in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1981.
“That operation was not carried out in agreement with the United States,” he said.
Steinitz, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the Israeli leader had left no doubt as to the country’s response to nuclear-armed Iran.
“The prime minister has said clearly that Israel will not allow Iran to become a nuclear power,” Steinitz said.
Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said late Wednesday that he is “all smiles” as talks with Western powers over the country’s nuclear weapons program run past a self-imposed deadline and Tehran pushes the United States to make more concessions.
“Any agreement and pressure will not go together,” Zarif said. “They are mutually exclusive. So our friends need to decide whether they want to be with Iran based on respect or that they want to continue based on pressure. They have tested the other one. It’s high time to test this one.”
Secretary of State John Kerry will remain in town until Thursday morning in a bid to patch over remaining disagreements with Iran over what an initial political agreement will look like.
The extension in talks appeared to rile Western reporters and opened questions about just how many concessions Iran is angling to receive.
The option of carrying out preemptive airstrikes against countries posing an impending security threat to Israel is still on the table, Israeli Air Force Commander Amir Eshel stated Wednesday.
He added that the military must ensure that its pilots possess the skills necessary to follow through with such a mission should it be ordered.
“In pure military terms, there is a very big advantage [to preemptive strikes], as they produce results, assuming that you have the capability,” Eshel said during a conference in Tel Aviv organized by the The Kinneret Center on Peace, Security and Society.
“In order to reach the [enemy] targets, you have to pass through [advanced surface-to-air missile defense systems], though not necessarily physically. But it’s definitely a challenge, to attack the targets and pass through all that protects them,” he acknowledged.
Eshel said Israel may be forced to choose between properly defending itself from an enemy missile attack and carrying out a preemptive strike, as deployment of defense systems across the country would give away the element of surprise and significantly harm the air force’s efforts to carry out its covert missions successfully.