Jerusalem: Stern messages from western powers seem to have "cooled" Israeli leaders' enthusiasm for launching an attack on Iran's nuclear installations, a media report here has said.
Israel's hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak have apparently recognised that in addition to the military implications of such a move where a barrage of Iranian missiles could kill hundreds of Israelis, it would also have serious foreign policy implications, the Ha'aretz reported.
It could result in a very deep rift between Israel and its greatest allies, France, Britain, Germany and the United States, it said.
In the past two weeks, in the wake of the Western messages, Netanyahu has changed track by beginning to talk about the need to set "red lines" for Iran over its nuclear programme in order to head off a military confrontation, the daily said.
A special envoy from the British government visited Israel about two weeks ago on a secret visit for talks with Netanyahu and Barak and warned against such unilateral moves, the report said.
According to an Israeli source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter told the daily that the high ranking visitor delivered a stern message directly from British Prime Minister David Cameron.
British fears about an imminent Israeli decision to strike Iranian nuclear facilities was further heightened by Netanyahu's failure, during a telephonic conversation with the British Premier prior to the Olympics in July, to provide clear and precise answers to Cameron's questions about Israel's intentions on the Iranian front, the Israeli source reportedly said.
During his visit the British envoy met with a number of Israeli security and diplomatic officials and stressed that Britain believes there is still time for diplomatic measures to work, and that the economic and diplomatic sanctions against Iran should be continued and perhaps heightened.
Israel and Britain cooperate closely on the Iran issue in the intelligence and diplomatic spheres, and Britain briefed Israel in full on the negotiations between the six world powers and Iran.
Britain also includes Israel in its efforts to impose additional sanctions on Iran and supports keeping up the economic and diplomatic pressure on the Islamic Republic while employing covert means to its nuclear programme.
The combined weight of the messages coming from Western powers seems to have cooled Netanyahu and Barak's Enthusiasm for launching an uncoordinated attack on Iran, the report said. According to the Israeli source, the firm message of the UK envoy, together with the phone conversation during the same period between Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and public remarks by high-ranking US officials in recent weeks have affected the Israeli leadership's attitude to the Iran issue.
The US on Monday rebuffed a bid by Israel to convince it to declare "red lines" that Iran must not cross if it is to avoid international action over its nuclear programme.
State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, told reporters that while US President Barack Obama "has said unequivocally he will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon," the idea of deadlines or red lines was "not useful".
Earlier, Netanyahu had said that Jerusalem is in talks with Washington about laying down a clear threshold for action over Iran's nuclear programme.
"Iran will not stop unless it sees clear determination by the democratic countries of the world and a clear red line," Netanyahu had told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
But the US State Department distanced Washington from the Israeli stance, which could be seen by many as locking the United States and Iran into a logic of confrontation that could quickly escalate into military action.
"The American people know that the President has said unequivocally he will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon," Nuland said.
"So, you know, we are absolutely firm about the President's commitment here, but it is not useful to be pursuing it, to be setting deadlines one way or the other, red lines," she said, promising "intensive consultations with Israel".
Not setting any deadlines US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had earlier played down talk of imposing a timetable on Iran. "I think we've maintained a steady course of our two-pronged policy," Clinton had said at the end of a trip to Asia.
"We have always said every option was on the table, but we believe in the negotiation, the diplomatic effort through the P5+1, but also pressure," she added in the remarks released yesterday.
Israel has declared Iran's nuclear programme an existential threat vowing to foil it by using all options on the table.
Tehran has maintained that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.
First Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012, 15:02