Jerusalem: Israel views the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran with greater urgency than the rest of the world, Israel`s Defence Minister said on Monday.
Ehud Barak also reiterated recent Israeli assessments that Iran`s nuclear program is on the verge of becoming immune to disruptions by a possible military strike.
The remarks are likely to fuel already rampant speculation that Israel is preparing for a strike before Iran moves most of its nuclear facilities underground and beyond the reach of a precision attack.
In testimony to parliament`s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, Barak also said that harsher international sanctions against Iran would be needed to try to pressure Tehran to abandon the suspect elements of its nuclear program.
Barak also invoked a theme that has become a recent mantra with Israeli leaders that the Jewish state will not leave its fate to others to decide.
"The world, including the current US administration, understands and accepts that Israel necessarily views the threat differently than they do, and that ultimately, Israel is responsible for taking the decisions related to its future, its security and its destiny," he said.
Barak`s office released his statements to the committee in a media release.
Iran`s nuclear program, Barak said, "is steadily approaching maturation and is verging on a `zone of immunity` a position from which the Iranian regime could complete its program without effective disruption, at its convenience."
Barak sent jitters through the world two months ago, when he first coined the "zone of immunity" phrase a reference to Iran`s movement of sensitive nuclear operations deep underground in heavily fortified bunkers, in an effort to compromise any military strike.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel hasn`t yet decided whether to attack, but senior officials who advocate a pre-emptive strike say Israel, with relatively limited firepower, would have to strike by summer to be effective.
Israel, just hundreds of miles from Iran, sees a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic as the biggest threat to its survival.
This has been underscored by the controversies surrounding Iran`s nuclear program, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad`s repeated references to a destruction of the Jewish state, Iran`s arsenal of ballistic missiles capable of striking Israel and its anti-Israel allies in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.