Sat, Jan 14, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Israel prepared to strike at Iranian nuclear installations


Israel has drawn up plans for strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities with bunker busting bombs supplied by the US, but analysts say it has no intention of carrying them through while diplomatic pressure is growing on Tehran.

Israel regards Tehran as the single greatest threat, a view sharpened by the Iranian president's call for the destruction of the Jewish state and his denial of the Holocaust.

Last month Binyamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister and leader of the Likud party, said that if he wins the general election in March he would follow the example of former prime minister Menachem Begin who ordered the Israeli air force bombing of Iraq's nuclear plant in 1981.

"The Iranian threat is an existential one. In this regard I will continue the legacy of Menachem Begin, who thwarted Iran's neighbor, Iraq, from acquiring nuclear weapons by adopting bold and daring measures. I believe that is what Israel needs to do," Netanyahu told Israel radio.

But the government does recognize important political and military differences from the situation with Iraq 25 years ago.

"I don't think there's a desire on any side to deal with this militarily," said Emily Landau, director of the Jaffee Center's arms control project in Tel Aviv.

"I think that ... everybody's looking to referring the case of Iran to the UN security council and that is what Israel is hoping for as well," she said.

The Israeli government has been skeptical of European efforts to pressure Tehran over the past two years, saying a more robust approach led by the US would be required.

"Israel was trying to sharpen the idea that if nothing happens by March we're really going to be a point of no return," Landau said.

"Its message was more to the international community than Iran that now the international community really has to get its act together," she said.

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