Israel will be compelled to attack Iran's nuclear facilities if Western powers do not impose serious sanctions against Teheran by the end of 2009, former deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh said on Wednesday.
"We cannot live under the shadow of an Iran with nuclear weapons," he was quoted as telling Reuters, in an interview on a visit to the UK. "By the end of the year, if there is no agreement on crippling sanctions aimed at this regime, we will have no choice."
Sneh reportedly stressed that a military strike would be "the very, very last resort. But ironically it is our best friends and allies who are pushing us into a corner where we would have no option but to do it.
"I wonder if they will [put a tougher sanctions regime in place] quickly enough," Sneh said. "If not, we are compelled to take action."
Sneh, who holds no position in the government and was speaking in a personal capacity, told Reuters it was not clear the US and EU had the gumption to take such steps, which should include tougher banking and oil curbs, by year's end.
He added that the need for the involvement of Russia and China "is a myth," as strict sanctions imposed by the West would be tough enough to work.
"It is bloodless, and it even stops short of a naval blockade," he said.
Sneh reportedly explained that Jerusalem could not accept a nuclear-armed Iran because government processes would be "substantially distorted," as the cabinet's decision-making would be hostage to the fear of Teheran's nuclear retaliation.
If the Islamic republic completed its military nuclear program, immigration to Israel would stop, young men and women would emigrate to pursue their future in places seen as more secure and investment in Israel would be reduced, he reportedly said.
The former deputy minister also warned that Iran would pressure moderate Arab states to toughen their positions vis-a-vis Israel, and that a nuclear Iran would prompt Saudi Arabia and Egypt to obtain nuclear weapons themselves, bringing about a Middle East "fully loaded with nuclear weapons."