Ephraim Sneh, Israel’s deputy defence minister until 2007, said a nuclear-armed Iran was an unacceptable threat to Israel. No Israeli government could put its faith in President Barack Obama’s efforts to bring Tehran to the negotiating table over its nuclear programme, he said.
“The Israeli government is the only entity that is responsible for the existence of the Jewish people,” he said. “Iran has been explicit in its hostility to Israel time and again. They would use these weapons.
“We believe that Iran has the capacity and the delivery capability for nuclear weapons. They can proceed to production. We have got two months to act – before the end of 2009.”
Iran and the major world power are to start talks on the stand off over its nuclear programme, which stands in violation of United Nations resolutions, on Oct 1. Mr Obama’s offer to talk to Iran without pre-conditions has made Israel nervous that Tehran will use detente as a cover to complete its drive for an atom bomb.
“If Iran gained the bomb it would trigger a regional arms race with Saudi and Egypt quickly obtaining weapons,” he said. “We would be living next to three Pakistans.”
Mr Sneh believes Iran’s regime has been weakened by the pro-democracy uprising in the aftermath of the disputed presidential election. It could be brought to its knees by sanctions curtailing imports of petrol, the sale of spare parts for energy production, freezing its banks out of the global monetary system and banning cross-border investment.
But Israeli society would change irrevocably if the cleric-led government acquired the bomb. “We are not looking for adventures but we cannot take the risk,” said Mr Sneh.