Israel now finds itself at a perilous crossroads.

Despite several rounds of international sanctions, Iran continues to advance its atomic ambitions with dogged determination, defying the world as it marches steadily toward the nuclear finish line.

And yet, even as this existential threat grows ominously more real, the United States, France and other Western countries seem more resolute about thwarting an Israeli pre-emptive strike than stopping Iran from going nuclear.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Israel now faces a stark choice: either to rely on America to ensure our security or simply go it alone and protect ourselves.

Underlining the sense of urgency was a quarterly report issued late last week by the International Atomic Energy Agency which revealed that the ayatollahs have accelerated their uranium enrichment program.

In the past three months alone, Tehran has more than doubled its underground nuclear production capacity at the heavily fortified Fordow facility, boosting the number of enrichment centrifuges to 2,140 from 1,064 in May.

And they have also taken further steps to conceal aspects of their nuclear program from the prying eyes of international inspection.

AS PRIME Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the cabinet Sunday, “The report confirms what we have been saying for some time: while the international sanctions are indeed making things difficult for the Iranian economy, they are not delaying the progress.”

Nevertheless, in the run-up to the US presidential elections in November, the last thing that Barack Obama wants is a conflagration in the Middle East. As a result, administration officials have sought to emphasize that “all options are on the table” even as they seek to dissuade Israel from launching a unilateral attack.

But if recent history is any guide, there is little reason to take comfort in the soothing assurances of American officials. For all its tough talk about nuclear non-proliferation, Washington has failed miserably to stem the tide of an increasingly nuclear world.

Take, for example, the case of North Korea. Already in the mid-1980s, US intelligence began to pick up signs that the dictatorial regime in Pyongyang was working to develop nuclear weapons.

Throughout the 1990s, America applied a series of sticks and carrots, using a mix of threats, talks and aid in a largely fruitless effort to discourage the Communist hermit kingdom from going down the nuclear path.

When George W. Bush became president, he promised to take an even tougher line, and in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York and Washington, he singled out North Korea along with Iraq for their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

In his January 2002 State of the Union Address, Bush declared North Korea to be part of the “axis of evil” together with Iran and Iraq, and insisted that their pursuit of nuclear weapons constituted a “grave and growing danger” to the US, which would do “what is necessary to ensure our nation’s security.”

On February 18, 2002, as he prepared to travel to South Korea, Bush was even more explicit, telling reporters that, “America will not allow North Korea and other dangerous regimes to threaten freedom with weapons of mass destruction.”

Later that year, in September, the Bush administration issued a paper outlining its national security strategy which said that Pyongyang was the “world’s principal purveyor of ballistic missiles” and even affirmed America’s right to take preemptive action.

All the bluster didn’t seem to make much of an impression on the North Koreans. At a meeting in Pyongyang on October 4, 2002, a team of US State Department officials presented evidence indicating that their hosts had been acquiring centrifuges to process enriched uranium which could be used to build a nuclear bomb. Without batting an eyelash, the North Koreans acknowledged that to be the case.

They subsequently withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and by June 2005, Pyongyang proudly announced that it had amassed a stockpile of nuclear weapons and was eagerly building more, which it continues to do today.

So for all the assurances and tough talk over the course of nearly two decades, America proved either unwilling or unable to stop North Korea from joining the nuclear club, with the result being that US ally South Korea is forced to live under the shadow of an ongoing nuclear threat.

Is that how we want Israel to end up? If George W. Bush was not prepared to take action to prevent North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons, does anyone really believe that Barack Obama will be tougher than his predecessor against Tehran? This is more than just a political or philosophical musing. It is a matter of life and death for the Jewish state and we cannot afford to gamble our future and that of our children on the outcome.

Seven decades ago, the nations of the world were prepared to sit back and watch as Jews were incinerated. We cannot risk that happening again.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a Democratic president who was beloved by American Jews, refused to bomb Auschwitz and allowed countless Jews to die.

Now, Barack Obama, a Democratic president who is adored by many American Jews, appears unwilling to shut down the nuclear Auschwitz that the would-be Hitler of Persia is busy constructing.

Clearly, diplomacy has failed and sanctions and pressure have not succeeded in deterring the ayatollahs.

As frightening as it sounds, Israel has no choice but to act. We need to bomb Iran before it is too late.

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