IAF jet 248.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
A deal taking shape between Israel and Western leaders will facilitate international support for an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities in exchange for concessions in peace negotiations with the Palestinians and Arab neighbors, The Times reported Thursday.
According to one British official quoted by the paper, such an understanding could allow an Israeli attack "within the year."
The report in the UK paper quoted unnamed diplomats as saying Israel was prepared to offer concessions on the formation of a Palestinian state as well as on its settlement policy and "issues" with Arab neighbors, in exchange for international backing for an Israeli operation in Iran.
"Israel has chosen to place the Iranian threat over its settlements," one senior European diplomat said.
According to the Times report, the passage of two Sa'ar 5-class Israeli Navy ships through the Suez Canal on Tuesday was a message to Iran and part of preparations being made by Israel for the possibility of a strike.
"This is preparation that should be taken seriously. Israel is investing time in preparing itself for the complexity of an attack on Iran. These maneuvers are a message to Iran that Israel will follow up on its threats," an unnamed Israeli defense official was quoted by the paper as saying.
"It is not by chance that Israel is drilling long-range maneuvers in a public way. This is not a secret operation. This is something that has been published and which will showcase Israel's abilities," another defense official said.
The passage of the ships comes several weeks after a Dolphin-class submarine passed through the international waterway for the first time.
One of the ships, the INS Hanit, already crossed the canal in June, in what an Egyptian source said was the first time a large missile ship used the strategic waterway, which is the fastest route to get Israeli Navy vessels from the Mediterranean, where they are based, to the Red Sea and beyond.
The other ship to cross on Tuesday was the INS Eilat.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that under a long-standing treaty, warships can freely sail through Suez as long as they have no hostile intentions against the state that owns the canal. He declined to say whether the maneuver was aimed at sending a message, saying, "I don't want to analyze an issue that I am not fully aware of."
In the event of a conflict with Iran, and if Israel decided to involve its three Dolphin-class submarines - which according to foreign reports can fire nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and serve as a second-strike platform - the quickest route would be to sail them through the Suez Canal. Going through the canal would also be the only way to get to the Gulf of Oman without refueling.
Yaakov Katz contributed to this report