Ayalon: Attack on Iran is still an option

Deputy FM Ayalon Milita

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon insisted on Monday that the military option against Teheran was still on the table, rejecting comments made by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last week and published on Sunday. Ayalon told Reuters that Medvedev's statement did not guarantee Israel would not attack Iran's nuclear facilities, should the international diplomatic push to stymie its nuclear aspirations prove futile. "It is certainly not a guarantee. I don't think that, with all due respect, the Russian president is authorized to speak for Israel and certainly we have not taken any option off the table," he said. In a transcript of the interview with Medvedev released by the Kremlin on Sunday, the Russian president hedged on the question of whether Russia would support Iran if it were attacked by Israel. Although Moscow has no defense agreement with Teheran, "this does not mean we would like to be or will be indifferent to such an occurrence... But my Israeli colleagues told me they were not planning to act in this way, and I trust them," Medvedev said. According to Reuters, President Shimon Peres made the pledge to Medvedev during a meeting in the Russian resort of Sochi in August. "When he visited me in Sochi, Israeli President Peres said something important for us all: 'Israel does not plan to launch any strikes on Iran, we are a peaceful country and we will not do this'," Medvedev said. The president's role is mainly ceremonial and he does not determine policy. Also on Monday, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi told Army Radio, "The best way to deal with [the Iranian nuclear threat] is sanctions, but if [these don't work], Israel has the right to defend itself, and all means can be used to achieve this." A nuclear-armed Iran would be a "threat to the whole world," he said. When asked what his recommendation would be if the government asked his opinion on a military strike, Ashkenazi declined to answer. He also said the IDF had made significant improvements since the Second Lebanon War in 2006. "Since the Second Lebanon War, we have done an all encompassing review of the possibility we may need to fight again in the north. We understand what we need to do next time and the IDF has the answer. It is a strong and high-quality military, and I trust it," Ashkenazi said.