Israel is willing to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities even if doing so only delays the Islamic Republic's nuclear progress for a few years, Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren told Bloomberg News Wednesday.
“One, two, three, four years are a long time in the Middle East - look what’s happened in the last year,” he said in reference to the ongoing upheaval throughout the Arab world.
He said that “in the past, we have operated on the assumption that we can only gain a delay.”
When Israel struck at an Iraq reactor in 1981, the military assumption was “we would gain a delay of between one and two years on that program,” Oren said. “To this day, Iraq does not have a nuclear weapon.”
Oren, who described the Iranian nuclear threat as unprecedented in Israel's 64-year existence, warned, however, that "diplomacy hasn’t succeeded” thus far in halting Iran's atomic program, adding that “we’ve come to a very critical juncture where important decisions do have to be made.”
Asked about US assessments that an Israeli attack would delay Iran’s nuclear program for no more than two or three years, Oren said, “I’m not saying we agree or disagree. What I am saying is that - on the basis of our previous experience - is not an argument against.”
While “no country has a greater stake in resolving this diplomatically” than Israel, Oren said, “Iranians show no signs of flexibility in negotiations” with the US and other countries over its program.
“An Iranian nuclear weapon is an existential threat to Israel,” Oren said. “We don’t just say it. They say it as well. They confirm it.”
Also Wednesday, former National Security Council Uzi Dayan said he believes there is still time to convince Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to postpone an attack on Iran, The New York Times reported.
Dayan, who confirmed to the Times that he met on Monday for over an hour with both Netanyahu and Barak at their personal residences, claimed that the government has not yet decided whether or not to attack but that it will be forced to do so before November.
Dayan said he has known Netanyahu and Barak "a very long time,” and expressed confidence they would make a decision to strike "only if they feel that there is no other way, as the last, last thing."
Compounding the rhetoric between Israel and the Islamic Republic, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday that he was confidant "the fake Zionist (regime) will disappear from the landscape of geography,” Iran's Mehr News Agency reported.
Earlier on Wednesday Brig.-Gen. Gholamreza Jalali, the head of Iran's Passive (civil) Defense Organization and a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards, during a speech ahead of Al-Quds Day, an anti-Israel event initiated by Iran, said that in order to liberate Palestine there was no other option but to destroy Israel.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.