Jerusalem: Israel is mulling a possible military strike to foil Iran`s nuclear ambitions with its hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu garnering support within his cabinet for the same, according to a media report here.
Actively supported by Defence Minister Ehud Barak, the Israeli Premier is said to have recently succeeded in persuading ultra-nationalist Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, in support of the strike as they work towards mustering a cabinet majority on the strike, Ha`aretz daily reported citing a senior Israeli official as source.
According to the official, there is a "small advantage" in the cabinet for the opponents of such an attack. Lieberman had been earlier being an opponent of such a measure.
Awaiting nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency`s (IAEA) report to be released on November 08, political leaders in Israel have started arguing over the possibility of a war with Iran.
Leading ministers publicly dropping hints today that Israel could attack the Islamic Republic, although a member of the forum of eight senior ministers said no such decision had been taken.
Senior ministers and diplomats said the IAEA report will have a decisive effect on the decision the Jewish state will take in this regard.
The whole debate was sparked by a column written by one of Israel`s leading columnist, Nahum Barnea, for the largest circulated daily `Yediot Ahronoth` under the headline "Atomic Pressure". The columnist`s concerned tone has brought back the issue to the forefront of the Israeli debate even though thousands of Israeli citizens have been looking for shelter to avoid rocket attacks emanating from Gaza during the past few days.
Western intelligence officials have been recently saying that Iran is forging ahead with its nuclear programme. Intelligence services estimate that Tehran will take two or three years to get the bomb once it decides based on its current capability.
According to Western experts, an attack on Iran during the winters this year is almost ruled out because the thick clouds would obstruct the Israel Air Force`s performance.
Netanyahu did not rule out the possibility of the need for a military action against the Islamic Republic this week, warning of its increased power and influence during a Knesset (Israeli Parliament) address.
"One of those regional powers is Iran, which is continuing its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. A nuclear Iran would constitute a grave threat to the Middle East and the entire world, and of course it is a direct and grave threat on us," he said on Monday.
Barak said Israel should not be intimidated but did not rule out the possibility that Israel would launch a military attack on Iran`s nuclear facilities.
"I object to intimidation and saying Israel could be destroyed by Iran," the Defence Minister said.
"We`re not hiding our thoughts. However there are issues we don`t discuss in public... We have to act in every way possible and no options should be taken off the table... I believe diplomatic pressure and sanctions must be brought to
bear against Iran," he said.
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya`alon said he preferred an American military attack on Iran to an Israeli one.
"A military move is the last resort," he said.