JERUSALEM, Sept 15 (Reuters) - A senior Israeli official signalled on Saturday that there would be no unilateral attack on Iran in the coming weeks, saying that international pressure had kept Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme in check.
Speculation that Israel might attack Iranian atomic facilities alone, and soon, has soared given an unusually public dispute with the United States about how much time to allow for negotiations and sanctions to run their course before considering military action.
Amos Gilad, top aide to Defence Minister Ehud Barak, was asked in a television interview whether the Jewish high holidays, which begin on Sunday and end on Oct. 9, would be “quiet in terms of any initiative taken by Israel”.
The question followed an extensive discussion with Gilad about Iran’s nuclear programme, which the West suspects is geared toward producing bombs despite Tehran’s denials, and about the violent outrage sweeping the Muslim world in response to an American video clip mocking the Prophet Mohammad.
“What Israel will or won’t do - I recommend that this remain behind closed doors,” Gilad told Channel Two television in response.
“But to the extent it is possible to foresee the holidays, it looks like it will be quiet, if you exclude all kinds of events like some maniac or hate crimes that set the entire world on fire.”
Gilad played down the spat with Washington, saying that Israel and its foreign allies agreed that “the Iranian threat is a central threat” and that awareness of this cooperation had prevented Tehran producing weapons.
“For now, as long as there is this unanimity, it seems to me that even the Iranians understand this and are not crossing the line .. of implementing and building a nuclear bomb, not because they are merciful toward us, not because they like us, but because they fear a military response or another response,” he said.
Iran says its uranium enrichment programme, which could yield the material for a nuclear warhead, is designed purely for energy and medical needs.
Israel sees a mortal threat in a nuclear-armed Iran. Though widely assumed to have the region’s sole atomic arsenal, the Israelis lack the conventional firepower to deliver lasting damage to Iran’s distant, dispersed and well-defended facilities, and have said they would prefer superior U.S. forces to do the job.